Women drive the conversation at Heels & Wheels.
In May of this year, a group of women influencers in the automotive market met at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, California. We were there for Heels & Wheels, a yearly event that brings female representatives from major auto manufacturers and journalists together.
The test drives took place in the Santa Monica area- a sunny venue to try out winding mountain roads, crowded highways and city streets. In other words, real-life driving.
Here are some of my major takeaways:
New Car Buying: Women vs. Men by KBB.com
- Women take longer to purchase than men: 75 days versus 63 days
- Women feel less knowledgeable (41% vs. 64%) and less confident than men (38% vs. 59%)
- Women research more. They spend 10.4 min more on research vs. 3.8 mins for men
- Women shop for features; men shop for brands
- Two times more women are undecided, 2 out of 5 men know what car they want
How did you pick which car to bring?
GM: The Regal GS is a great “best foot forward” car for Buick and really illustrates what the brand stands for. It’s graceful and elegant on the outside, beautiful and comfortable on the inside, it has great technology throughout, and it’s really fun to drive.
Jaguar Land Rover: The vehicles JLR provided were a 2015 Discovery Sport HSE and a Jaguar F-TYPE Convertible. We choose to send the F-Type because the route the ladies took went through the LA mountains to Malibu and made a fun drive in a convertible!
Mazda: We chose the 2016 Mazda6 for this event because of its relevance to the women that attended, as well as their target audience. The Mazda6 is an affordable mid-sized vehicle – offering an innovative interior design, with all the latest safety technology, and an enhanced exterior design. It has functionality, ride comfort, and quietness – features that are important to most women when making a purchasing decision. Most importantly, it is fun-to-drive, and H&W is for female journalists for whom driving matters.
Nissan: Murano has a lot to offer—unique style, advanced technology and a suite of safety and convenience features that make the daily commute more enjoyable. The all-new Murano, we like to say has an extra set of eyes with its four cameras and three radar sensors. Nissan Murano has a lower in-step height and wider door opening, making it easier to get in/out of the vehicle and to secure infants and toddlers in their car seats. We also lowered the height of the instrument panel, shortening that “seat-to-screen” distance. That, combined with the larger screen and less audio and navigation switches, makes for a more user-friendly (and driver-friendly) experience.
Mitsubishi: We are focusing… on the Outlander Sport. It has a design that stands out and a size that appeals to women, so it’s a natural fit.
VW: The all-new Golf SportWagen blends sedan-like driving dynamics and fuel economy with crossover-style cargo capacity, making it an ideal choice for modern families. Having this model available for female auto journalists and bloggers to share with their audiences helps Volkswagen spread the word that the wagon truly is back.
What information from the event should women know?
Mazda: The purchasing research that compared women’s buying habits versus men’s buying habits (KBB) was very relevant and interesting from an automaker’s perspective.
Mitsubishi: Women are a demographic that we do keep in mind… because they influence so many car purchases. In that sense, events like these are necessary for the brand.
VW: I was impressed by the wide variety of outlet types. There were not only women writing for female and family-oriented blogs, but also for go-to industry research sites and buff books. Women often make the car-buying decisions in their households and the more they can read about cars from writers with a similar perspective, the better.
Do you think that we need more women in the automotive business and why?
GM:Absolutely! The best way for automakers to understand and serve their female customers is to have women working in every aspect of the business. From my own experience at GM, I’ve felt welcomed from day one. My contributions are appreciated and opinions are valued – and the work is fun, challenging, and fulfilling.
Mazda:· It’s great to have many more women in the automotive industry. It provides a unique perspective to an industry where a lot of women ultimately have a significant influence on the final purchasing decision. Women – and even men – are very welcoming to women in the industry. Even across manufacturers, I feel like the women form a bond that helps us do our jobs better, and gives our companies critical insight, rather than just stepping on each other’s feet.
Nissan: I think having more females in the automotive industry would be a fabulous thing. What I appreciate about the environment at Nissan is that we as a company truly value diversity and believe that it ultimately helps us as we develop new vehicles and outreach strategy.
Mitsubishi: I would love more women in the automotive business. I particularly think that there would be a benefit to more women in dealerships to make the search and purchasing process better, but also…as engineers and product planners. I will say that I was very pleasantly surprised by the event… the women were all so welcoming, very judgment free.
VW: We need more women in the auto industry. Women can inform product and marketing decisions in new ways that will result in more well-rounded and well-received vehicles for everyone.
The vehicles we tested. Prices as driven:
- 2015 Buick Regal GS: $43,735
- 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack: $41,685
- 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker: $46,180
- 2015 GMC Canyon SLE Crew Long Box: $38,915
- 2015 Infiniti QX60: $54,690
- 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe: $102,825
- 2016 Kia Sorento SXL: $45,095
- 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE $49,470
- 2015 Lexus NX200t F Sport $42,055
- 2015 Lexus RCF $71,035
- 2016 Mazda6 $33,550
- 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport $28,545
- 2015 Nissan Murano SL $40,305
- 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen $29,345