If there is a perfect recipe for the vehicle that will win over female drivers, it starts with the sleek body of a sport utility vehicle.
Inside, it calls for seats clad in leather or another high-strength fabric (read: one you can actually scrub to make stains disappear). There is thoughtful personal storage – a dedicated spot for a cellphone and most definitely a handbag, because more than 80 per cent of women carry one and yes, it is regularly stuffed so full that it will be heavy enough to break a flimsy plastic hook should designers opt to install one on the console.
Visibility needs to be 360 degrees of impeccable, so no large 'D' pillars obscuring the blind spot, please. The driver's seat must be adjustable. Same goes for the pedals and the steering wheel.
And women want infotainment that doesn't just work, but works well – so add an integrated touch screen that is just as responsive as her iPad.
In short, with female drivers – the coveted market all auto makers are looking to grow their share of – it's what's on the inside that counts most. New research from the global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan shows that women are deeply dissatisfied with the interior designs of their vehicle options. While they generally report having high satisfaction with the safety features and manoeuvrability of the options on the market, women aren't finding what they need in the cabin.
"There are loads of interviews with female drivers … who spend most of their time mildly dissatisfied with a lot of the features in their vehicles," said Olivia Price-Walker, a London-based principal with Frost & Sullivan. "I'm totally convinced after a couple of years of research that the industry has it really wrong. Lots of brands have been totally ignoring women full-stop in their sales and marketing strategy," she said. "They're not being sophisticated with their models."
Price-Walker said there may be a case for making vehicles aimed specifically at women.
A recent European survey showed that one in five female respondents would prefer a vehicle made specifically for them. Two thirds of those respondents said they would be content if they could personalize certain options. Those include adding a suite of auto-assist features: parking, blind spot, rear lift and sensors on the doors. In the tire department, they want run-flats. In the engine, a hybrid. Oh, and they don't want to go to a dealership. Most would rather buy their cars, Price-Walker said, at the mall.
There are two vehicle segments that have been notoriously popular with female buyers in the past few years: compact city cars that win points for manoeuvrability and convenience, and compact sport-utility vehicles, which marry the convenience factor with the added bonus of, well, more utility. Buying trends this year in Canada reflect this.
Here's a list of the top 20 vehicles purchased by women in 2016 to date, expressed as a percentage of total sales. Note that Nissan, the first auto maker to work at improving its vehicles for the female market, has three models on the list.
Vehicle (percentage of buyers who are female)
- Nissan Juke - 68.1%
- Volkswagen Beetle - 67.3%
- Toyota Yaris - 67.1%
- Honda Fit - 66.7%
- Nissan Micra - 64.3%
- Hyundai Accent - 63.7%
- Chevrolet Trax - 62.7%
- Honda HR-V - 62.3%
- Scion iM - 61.5%
- Nissan Versa - 61.3%
- Kia Soul - 60.7%
- Fiat 500 - 60.5%
- Kia Rio - 60.3%
- Chevrolet Sonic - 60.3%
- Jeep Renegade - 59.4%
- Buick Encore - 59.2%
- Toyota Prius c - 58.8%
- Chevrolet Spark - 58.5%
- Mitsubishi Mirage - 58.1%
- Mazda CX-3 - 56.9%
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