CarsDiva’s Blog

An Auto Industry Insider’s View…From A Woman’s Perspective

Archive for November, 2007

One Small Step for “Womenkind”

Posted by carsdiva on November 30, 2007

Demetra Talking 2

 

 

I recently read an article in the November 21st issue of the Wall Street Journal, “Ads Made for Women, by Women,” that presented a new advertising/marketing company, Womenkind, looking to address the gap in female run marketing firms by “harnessing the power of female ad and marketing executives.”  I subsequently noticed another blog article on the company, that was actually written before the WSJ article (in the blog aptly named Agency Spy) that provoked quite a few comments.   

So it got me thinking… 

This all served to remind me that there are other industries that lag in promoting women, and, although I wasn’t aware that the advertising business was one of these areas, it turns out, judging from text of the  article, that there are obvious  similarities that can be noted between the “old boys club” in advertising and the auto industry.  The parellels between the two areas of business are striking, as Jerry Judge, CEO of Womenkind, describes “advertising wears the clothes of modernity but is actually very conservative.”  And that “companies repeat what made them successful long after it starts to damage them.” [Now is that thought every more appropriate than in the car business – I mean, Detroit ignored cars for trucks for over a decade, now look how its effected their business…]  It is clear to me that Mr. Judge’s statements address not only the advertising industry, but the same issues of how females are regarded, (or disregarded for that matter), in the car business, which, by the way, spills over into general manufacturer and dealer-based automotive marketing and advertising campaigns. 

Womenkind TeamThe concept of “Ads Made for Women, by Women” seems deceptively simple in logic, but as the article indicates, it is not so often done in practice, particularly in a male-dominated industry like the car business.  I think it speaks to all [male-dominated] industries to “harness the power of female executives to narrow a…gap.”  What does this mean?  Well to me the point being made is that in order to efficiently and successfully target and reach women consumers, which are increasingly becoming prominent in almost all buying sectors (85% of the purchasing power), the movers and shakers of the companies and corporations should be well represented by women.  Just as in advertising there was the “sexual revolution,” as Judge states, and “advertising looked away from the growing importance of women in commerce,” the auto industry needs to stop placing women in the “girl Friday” positions, and start looking at their perspectives as equal contributors to the workforce.  I think that because these two “old boy” networks work equally strongly, they have had a double effect on inhibiting the correct focus and marketing to women’s needs in automotive retailing, from the manufacturer outreach down to the process and treatment at dealerships. 

Let’s get drunk and talk sports & chicks here…

From what I have seen and experienced, the automotive industry has a very similar mentality as the advertising industry, as described by Judge, “a lot of the men want to talk about sports and chicks and get drunk” (in the car business? Ya think?).  One of the biggest impediments to reaching efficiency in these industries that lack women power is, like Judge says, that “they don’t speak the right language.”   

So who do you suppose naturally speaks better to women, a man or a woman? Or on a broader (no pun intended) scale, how can a man more efficiently identify and satisfy the needs of a female automotive consumer?  Don’t get me wrong, advertising professionals of both sexes are good at their jobs in the “old school” sense of their sales presentations, but how much more intuitive would their message be if the advertising strategy had dominant qualified women’s input from the top?.  I was actually quite amazed when I read the article surrounding the formation of Womenkind in the Wall Street Journal. I had assumed that the advertising industry used their best people, male or female, on the job based on the consumer target and the message.  On the other hand, demonstrably, the car manufacturers and their dealers have done a pretty dismal job thus far, when it comes to targeting and addressing the needs of women in most car advertising (again, there are some notable exceptions to this as well), so I probably should not have been surprised.  Jerry Judge

I’m very pleased and enthusiastic that Mr. Judge has created Womenkind.  It is described to work “soup to nuts” in offering marketers a “creative spa,” which is “a service where a team of women executives can look at the creative value of a marketer’s ads and see how they appeal to women,” and the automotive sector is one of the areas targeted by this new, enterprising organization in “harnessing the power of female ad and marketing executives.” The strategy of Womenkind is to mobilize a group of women, (from business owners to stay-at-home moms), to act as consultants in online focus groups, is also, I think, intuitive and forward reaching.   By enabling women to network with each other and collaborate their ideas, and then focus them on women consumers, sites like Womenkind should help to bridge the existing gap that clearly exists in industries like automotive retailing.   

And of course, as the CarsDiva,  I’d be eager to share my thoughts on current car business advertising and marketing (I can still remember the “negligee bowl” that Dodge was set to sponsor before they received some… what would you call it, “well placed” feedback.)

Does anyone else have views on this issue?  Let me know…

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“Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful…” (or soon will be…)

Posted by carsdiva on November 20, 2007

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As the cold season approaches, keep in mind there are some things to prioritize when it comes to your vehicle in order to prevent unwanted situations.   

Priorites Please… 

First off, if you need to, get your car serviced!  Have you seen some lit up “check” buttons you’ve been procrastinating to investigate?  If it’s 75 degrees and sunny and your car breaks down, well so you get delayed a bit, but no big deal.  However, as the snow begins to fall and temperatures drop you don’t want get stuck waiting outside as your toes get frost bitten, do you?  Make sure to have the mechanic check your battery and belts.  If you’re having any issues starting your car in warm weather, well you can be almost sure that there will come a time in the cold when your car won’t start.  (Note:  batteries lose power in the cold).  It may not seem like a priority now, but when it’s 10 below zero and you have to jump your car, well, you’ll think twice about my advice.  My suggestion- take care of it now.

Number 2- check your antifreeze (or coolant).  Do you know what antifreeze does anyway?  (I know I was a little unsure, so I’ll let you know.  AND if you know why you should do something, well it’s a bit more motivating to get it done, right?)  Antifreeze inhibits your cooling system from corrosion, and also absorbs heat from the engine, dissipating it through the radiator, preventing your car from overheating.  You really should drain and refill the coolant system to remove any dirt or rust, but if you don’t do that, at very least check the level.  No coolant in your car will prevent your heat from working.  AND make sure the antifreeze you put in has a 50/50 ratio, coolant to water, which equals a lower freezing point—important for those treacherous winter days. 

 

 gas-gage.jpg   Fill ‘Er Up! 

The next important thing to remember, though it gets more expensive every day, is to ALWAYS try to keep your gas tank full!  First off, late at night when the temperature drops and the sun’s not out, do you really want to stand outside freezing as you fill your gas to get somewhere?  And secondly, if by chance your car does break down, or you get stuck in a snowstorm, you’ll probably want to keep your car running for the heat.  And um, well if you have no gas, well then you’ll remember the importance of why I told you to keep your tank full.

Make sure to check your windshield wiper fluid.  We’ve all been behind that big semi that drives through a puddle and slops that brown, slushy snow on our windshield.  You’re frantically trying to spray fluid to clean it as you drive down the road.  Don’t get stuck without out it, or you’ll be sticking your head out your window to be able to see.  On that same token, make sure your front and rear defrosters work, or you’ll end up in the same bind.   

“Slide, slide, slippety slide…” 

For those of us (like me) that are ridiculously stubborn and insist on driving their little rear-wheel drive sports cars in the treacherous weather, well I recommend snow tires and sand bags.  (Trust me- I can vouch for the importance of these two things from personal experience.)  Putting some extra weight in your trunk (sand bags or kitty litter work best) can keep your car from fish-tailing across the freeway.  Snow tires are recommended for all vehicles, but especially smaller/lighter cars or those with rear-wheel drive.  Although they don’t work miracles in a gigantic snowstorm, they will give you more traction. 

Keep some basic supplies in your car.  I would recommend a snow brush and ice scraper.  And maybe an extra thick pair of gloves if you forget either of the two.  Also- don’t forget your cell phone!  Although I wouldn’t recommend talking on it while driving—most police officers will slap you with a fine if caught, you should have it in the car (and fully charged).  If you do get stuck, you don’t want to have to walk 5 miles to the nearest gas station.

 

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Before you get in your car, make sure you clear off any frost or snow- and I’m talking the entire vehicle.  One, because most state laws require you to and you don’t want to get stuck with a fine; and two, well that snow on top of your car is very likely to slide onto your windshield once you start moving.  And trust me (again from experience) you’ll end up sticking your arm out the window, trying to brush it off with hand while your driving. 

car-donuting.jpg

 

Time for Donuts- Woo-Hoo!  (Note: we’re not talking Krispy Kremes here…) 

Most importantly, know your car!  You should know how it handles in the snow (go do donuts in a parking lot… but make sure it’s empty first); if you have front, rear or four-wheel drive, if you’ve got antilock breaks and stability control.   

And remember, (and I’ll be the first to admit I have a lead foot), slow down in icy or snowy conditions.  As well as you know your car, Mother Nature takes precedent here and you don’t want to end up in a ditch, or forced to decrease your savings to pay for a fender bender.  Stay far enough behind other vehicles and be aware at all times- even if you’re being as careful as possible, it doesn’t mean other drivers are doing the same! 

And for those of you who think you’re exempt from the hazards of winter conditions, well check out what happened to this poor lady:

“A woman on her way to hair appointment crashed her car through the hair salon. Della Miller, 73, crashed into Tina’s Hair Pros’ windows Wednesday, knocking one customer six feet across the room, Soldotna police officer Marvin Towle said.  The parking area in front of the salon was snow-covered.

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Hey- at least she still got to keep her appointment.  Her car may have been a wreck but at a very expensive price, her hair looked good…     

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“The Dealership Treatment” – Women Vs. Men

Posted by carsdiva on November 13, 2007

girl-and-keys.jpggirl-and-keys.jpg

 

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Looking at American society today, women are definitely in the driver’s seat, purchasing over half the cars sold and influencing the purchase of over 80%.  With such a critical impact on automotive decision making, you’re probably wondering then, why is this industry so behind in placing more focus on them and their needs?  Well, perhaps it’s because men still hold the majority of high-ranking positions in the automotive world.  Although women are (very slowly) breaking through the barriers, it’s still controlled by men! little-kid.jpg

 

Women need to be satisfied

According to surveys conducted by CARMAX and Capital One Auto Finance, women continue to be unsatisfied with their car buying experience.  Studies continue to illustrate that women are increasingly purchasing more and more vehicles, yet their visit to the dealership has not improved.  In fact, it’s often referred to as “traumatic.”

Men drive the sales

Men don’t only dominate the high-ranking positions in the auto industry, they drive the sales.  In fact, women only make up about 8% of car salespeople.  Women are just viewed upon as being less aggressive.  Although both men and women give the car buying experience a negative connotation, women often take men along with them because they anticipate being treated badly.  I’m sure you’ve all been in that spot before- whether you were the man accompanying your wife or girlfriend, or the woman pleading your father or brother to come with you. 

The disparity often lies in the lines of communication between the salesman and the buyer.  Women like to take their time and “shop around”, and they’re not afraid to let the salesguy know that they’re “just shopping.”  Redflag!  Two things could happen at this point.  The salesperson ignores the lady and moves on to help the next GUY that just walked in.  Women take this as discrimination; they get frustrated and pissed off when they realize the person that was supposed to be helping them disappeared and they can’t get their questions answered.  (I don’t blame you- that’s why I’m here to help with that.)  OR, the salesguy, with all his tactics, will somehow find a way to con the shopper into buying a car she really didn’t intend on purchasing that day.  And again, the women leaves feeling aggravated, manipulated or pissed off that she allowed herself to be put in that position.  You’re supposed to be thrilled, feel excited– like a little kid getting a new toy when you buy a new car, right????

 

little-kid.jpg 

 

Interestingly enough a study completed by Princeton University and Edmunds.com concluded the following:

• 2.5 times more women than men said they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating.
• Men initiate negotiations about four times more often than women.
• When asked to pick metaphors for negotiations, men picked “winning a ballgame” and a “wrestling match,” while women picked “going to the dentist.”
• Women will pay as much as $1,353 to avoid negotiating the price of a car.
• Women are more pessimistic about the rewards available, and so come away with less when they do negotiate-on average, 30 percent less than men.
• 20 percent of women (22 million people) say they never negotiate at all, even though they recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.
• Approximately 80 percent of women feel pressure when browsing for cars in showrooms — and yet women play a critical role in nearly 60 percent of new   vehicle purchases, according to Edmunds.

Take control! …or say goodbye

I don’t know if I’d compare negotiating for my next car with going to the dentist (at least not if you have as many cavities as I do), but well, you can see the point being made.  The important thing to remember for both men and women is that you are in control of the situation– don’t allow yourself to lose that confidence.  You can always walk out if you’re not getting the treatment that you deserve by the wise-guy in plaid pants, (there are a ton of car dealers out there.)  Now on that token, in order to remain in control, you need to walk into the dealership prepared!  Don’t expect to come out ahead or strike a great deal if you don’t know what you’re talking about.  A recent survey showed that women are more likely than men to visit a dealership without doing any prior research.

Preparation before Purchase

Research and lingo is key- I mean come on ladies, you wouldn’t go browsing for your next Louis Vuitton bag without doing your research beforehand, would you?  You know how the sales rep will look at and/or treat you if you don’t know what you’re talking about.  I was just reading an article from the Wall Street Journal about shopping in a luxury district (Taking an Emotional Audit of Rodeo Drive by Christina Binkley), and it reminded me of car shopping, as the emotions that accompanied the shoppers frequently included “delight, shame, disappointment” and “self-indulgence.”  Luxury boutiques often profile their potential customers, and send signals that are unwelcoming, reflecting exclusivity.  Sound familiar?  Well the same applies for the car biz.  Forget about it, you might as well stay home.  You won’t be taken seriously.  Be prepared before stepping out or yes, you’ll fall into the pool of those with the “traumatic” experience.

 armwrestle.jpg

The number one thing to do is to research vehicle prices- not only the price of the car that you’re looking to buy/lease, but if you’ve got a trade-in, know the value of that car!  There are a lot of tools out there, whether you’re relying on a traditional source like newspapers, or you’re surfing the Web.  You can find what you need (and should do so) before you walk into a dealership.  It’s a lot easier to negotiate and remain in control when you can justify your argument.

Another point that consumers often forget (or don’t realize) is that there is a huge range of financing options out there—banks, credit unions, online financial sources.  Do some investigating.  The dealer is not the only one who can provide you with the financial assistance you require, AND he or she may not offer the best rates.  And if you have any specific questions on auto loans, feel free to ask me.  You know I’ll be honest with you…

“Say what???  Show it to me…”

Know your budget, and also know what you’re looking for in a car- from the drive train, to the horsepower, to the 5-disc player.  You’ll be amazed at how much more seriously you’ll be taken if you know some of the car “lingo.”  And finally, don’t be afraid to be demanding!   Take your time when you’re looking through the sales contract, and read all the fine print.  If you have questions, ask.   If you need an explanation, demand it.  You’ll appreciate taking these extra steps later on when your monthly payments aren’t sky high, but what you estimated them to be, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as you cruise off the lot. 

 

 girl-and-keys.jpg

 

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Gotta Gripe?

Posted by carsdiva on November 7, 2007

speechspeechspeechspeechFirst off, thank you…

speechSpeechSpeech….to all of you who have expressed your support or interest in my blog, online or offline! 

I’m very excited to see that so many people discovered the CarsDiva, without any fanfare, and I can’t wait to hear your comments and suggestions.

Which brings me to another point… and a request: 

My experience in the car business thus far has led me to conclude it is a somewhat confusing, and at many times unpleasant “black hole” for credible, honest information that is not, shall we say, “commercially” driven. (You can just see the polyester dude in the movie “Used Cars” saying, “the car was never a taxi cab, that’s just ‘yellow primer,’” can’t you?)

My perspective is unique in that I’m an insider unaffiliated with manufacturers, not supported by dealer or vendor advertising, and not promoting “certification” or “education program” sales to dealer groups .  I’m completely independent in this forum, so in essence, I can be totally honest and “call them as I see them” with no external or internal “editing.” 

For the same reasons, any reader, consumer, journalist, or for that matter, any automotive dealer, vendor, or manufacturer can say anything they want here and it will be presented, unedited from any “commercial” interests.Let me know what you want me to discuss (be it positive or negative) and I’ll raise the issue. 

So if you have a gripe or concern, send it in. 

If you have a question or observation, let me know. If I can help, I will. 

If I can run interference for you, I’ll do it. 

If I can make a call for you or set you in the right direction because I have some “insider” phone numbers or know something about the inner workings of a dealership, auto auction, or manufacturer, I’m here… 

To my knowledge there is nothing like this resource today for women car consumers or enthusiasts (or men for that matter), a sort of unbiased, independent “Dear Abby” of the car biz…

And, of course, the more feedback I get, the more interesting the “conversations” will be…

Don’t be shy, the car business has always ranked as one of, (if not the all time,) least respected industries in the nation. There is probably a good reason for that, and I want to hear it.  Speak up, and, I guarantee you, I will too!  Honestly and from the “hip.”

Post your specific comments, questions, gripes, concerns, problems, etc. to this blog, or email me directly at Demetra@carsdiva.com, and I promise, I’ll do my best to answer every one of them as best as I can!   

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