Car makers have been trying for ages to get the ‘fairer sex’ to buy their cars. It started out with something as simple as the electric starter in the early 1900 which made the difficult to use and dangerous removable crank handle obsolete. Since then, marketing agencies and manufacturers have tried hard to make and sell cars that appeal to women specifically. In an industry that seems male-dominated, getting more women involved isn’t a bad idea.
Unfortunately, throughout history, some manufacturers have stereotyped women and offered some really patronising products and ads. SEAT’s recent collaboration with Cosmopolitan magazine raised an outcry as people from all over the industry claimed it highlighted outdated automotive marketing. Carquirks lists some of the worst examples through time:
Jordan Motor Company
In 1923, the founder of Jordan Motor Company, Edward Jordan came up with an ad for one of his cars, evocatively named the Playboy. His cars were aimed at the discerning American woman who wanted a bit of flair with their cars. Jordan had himself said, “Cars are too dull and drab.” The company was known for its original and quite out-of-the-box advertising and the ad, published in the Saturday Evening Post (pictured below) was no exception.
The promotional campaign actually cause sales to fall as it definitely did not vibe with women of the era. Due to the Great Depression, the company did not survive beyond the early 1930s and its marketing campaign did have something to do with it.
Chrysler tried to attract women to its Dodge La Femme when it was launched in 1955. The car had many options specifically tailored for women including a two-tone pink-and-white exterior paint scheme, pink calf-skin interiors, flower covered seat covers, a purse (which included a face-powder compact, lipstick case, cigarette case, comb, cigarette lighter and change purse), and a compartment that contained a raincoat, rain bonnet and umbrella. The marketing brochures for the car stated that the car was made “By Special Appointment to Her Majesty… the American Woman.”
Women’s liberation was at its infancy at this point. Easy-to-drive automobiles, the ability to travel far by herself definitely contributed to the concept of liberation. However, this example of pandering also failed to sell adequately.
In 2000, Ford showed off a concept Windstar minivan co-developed with Maytag. The compact van concept featured a compact washer/dryer, microwave and even a vacuum in the rear hatch. The American manufacturer was trying very hard to reach mothers though they went about it in an unfortunately sexist manner. It almost seemed to ask why a mother would want to be parted from her home appliances.
Besides the appliances above, the concept also boasted a fridge for groceries, a cooler for drinks, hot/cold cup holders, and even a freaking trash compactor! This minivan would have been perfect for those who can only afford either a house or a car, so that they could choose the car with every household convenience inside.
When the minivan was showcased in Toronto at the end of 2000, Dean Stoneley, the then Windstar brand manager at Ford Motor Company of Canada, had commented, “A concept vehicle is a great way to get consumers’ reactions to new ideas because they can actually see, touch and experience the innovations.” Reception must have been less than lukewarm as the concept never reached production.
This Japanese brand is known for its small cars, (it was completely bought out in August 2016 by Toyota precisely for its ability to successfully sell kei cars), and isn’t above pandering to the female demographic. In a bid to get gain sales from 25-30 year old female professionals, the subsidiary of Toyota created the ‘Sirion Makeup Station’.
Essentially a car configurator on the Daihatsu website, it replaced paint buckets with nail polish and the car itself is displayed in shopping malls rather than in showrooms. On top of that, the configurator had glitter raining down on the car. The configurator was live on their website for a few months in 2013 but has been removed since.
The cheap gimmick to connect to women didn’t really work. Besides, the car itself did not sell particularly well in European markets and in developing Asian markets.
Another Japanese manufacturer that targeted the female demographic, the 2012 Honda Fit She’s was specifically made for the Japanese professional woman. Not surprising that it was painted pink, had pink stitching in the seats, steering wheel, and the floor mats, and pink metallic bezels around the gear shifter and displays. Just to make sure everyone knew the car was for women, Honda added shades of pink in the special She’s badge, and used a cutesy heart for an apostrophe!
The final touches of this car made-for-women were the windshield glass that allegedly cut 99% of ultraviolet rays, and a “Plasmacluster” air-con system that Honda claims can improve a driver’s skin quality!
There aren’t any official sales figures for this special edition Honda Fit but based on my own experiences in Japan, I bet there were very few takers.