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Honda's pink car marketed exclusively for women is insulting

Ugh. Really, Honda Japan? A pink Fit designed just for women?

I'm aware you're only hitting the Japanese market with the Fit She's, because you note the rest of the world just wouldn't get it. We wouldn't buy it, either. If I sat in a press conference being told a car was available in eyeshadow shades (yes, pink) and had a windshield that reduced wrinkles, I would barf.

Described in releases as "adult cute" (whatever that is), I suppose it could be good, for me, a modern woman, to have a place to put my Hello Kitty purse as I drove around – no doubt lost – in a vehicle conveniently shaped like an A cup breast to remind everyone of my gender.

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Manufacturers do a lot of research before they market a car. They know who buys, and they try very hard to determine why. Women influence up to 80 per cent of all purchases, and the number of women directly buying their own cars continues to rise. It only stands to reason that we want somewhere to apply our makeup, right?

No. Remarkably, women want a car they can trust. Fuel efficiency is big on our lists. We're more likely to sweat over the basics, especially safety features, than be oversold a sound system. Some studies infer that because we make less money, we buy cheaper cars. I have another theory: many of us go into a showroom prepared to be ripped off, and already entrenched for combat because of that.

The Internet has levelled the playing field for car selling. I can comfortably research to my heart's content every car that strikes my fancy, check and recheck what reputable sources tell me. There are sites like that will tell me, for a small fee, what the car should cost. I can dip into chat rooms full of existing owners who frequently reveal more than any manufacturer or seller would like them to. Yes, it's up to me to differentiate between disgruntled former employees or public relations plants, which is increasingly more difficult to do, but the point is the information is there if I want it badly enough.

And I do.

I know women who know more about the cars they're considering than the people selling them. I know women who will tell you they drive a blue car. So what? Neither should be treated with derision, or extended information or marketing garbage based on their gender. Whether they need that information respected or augmented, it's what's between your ears, not your legs.

Honda's not the first, of course. The Dodge La Femme in 1955-56 was an experiment destined to end up in a museum, and deservedly so. "The compartment on the driver's side contains a stylish rain cape, fisherman's style rain hat and umbrella. ... The other compartment holds a stunning shoulder bag in soft rose leather. It is fitted with compact, lighter, lipstick and cigarette case."

Funnily enough, it's easy to point out the manufacturers who have ventured into labelling a car designed for women, because most of them are smart enough not to pointedly do it. What's more irritating are reviewers who insist on tossing around the lazy label of "chick car."

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It's derogatory to both the cars and their owners. Most of us have a car that more than one person drives. Most of us are conscious that there may come a time when we want to sell that car. Boxsters and Miatas are no more for chicks than F-150s and Durangos are for dicks, and judging people for what they drive gets really old, really fast.

But which cars are sold to more women? A recent American Polk research study reveals a list jammed with compact CUVs but topped by the Volvo S40, followed by Nissan Rogue, VW Eos, VW Beetle, Toyota Matrix, Hyundai Tuscon, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4, Nissan Juke and the Jeep Compass. Interestingly, all of these "majorities" are in within the 50 to 60 per cent range, meaning that there is no crushing female landslide. Maybe that attests to the fact that the things women are looking for in a car – dependability, fuel efficiency, safety and value – are the same things many men are looking for. It also points to the fact that we have spouses and children driving those cars, too.

Is it smart for manufacturers to take their female buyers into account as they design a car? Of course it is. But it's not only condescending to think if you paint it pink I'll buy it – it's a win for one of your competitors.

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About the Author
Drive, She Said columnist

Lorraine Sommerfeld began writing when she was about to turn 40, because it was cheaper than a red convertible. Her weekly column Drive, She Said, while existing in the automobile section, is a nod to those of us who tend to turn the key rather than pop the hood. More


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