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What do women want? Well, given that “gender war” tales have become such a fertile source of debate in recent years -- with whole books devoted to the topic -- the temptation to crack wise is a powerful one.

"If I knew the answer to that, I’d still be married."

"What do they want? Everything, near as I can tell."

Okay, I’ll stop the riffs now, before I dig myself in any deeper. But, the truth is, the two genders are different in many, profound ways. And, generally speaking, women do tend to value certain things much more than men do, in many different realms of life.

CNW Research has compiled some data, based on questions they posed to consumers about how much importance they placed on various features offered in cars, then sorted the replies by gender (as well as by age group). This data was collected first in 2006, and then again this year, to see how they've changed. So, we’re going to talk about that, in the context of that whole notion that Men Are From Texas, and Women Are From Neptune.

But before we get into the specific features, we asked for some general insight into the subject from Susan Avery, who is editor-in-chief of ParentDish.com, an AOL website about parenting news and trends, and who provides some interesting female perspectives.

Most Important Vehicle Attributes

Women:

1. Rear visibility
2. Low monthly payment
5. Front visibility (tie)
5. Remote outside mirrors (tie)
5. Side air bags (tie)

Men:

1. Styling
3. Horsepower (tie)
3. Engine design (tie)
4. Front visibility
5. Sound system

“I went on a massive car search in 2004, and I’m a single mom, and I’m an educated person, but I kept being drawn to the ‘pretty’ cars,” confesses Avery, who lives and works in New York City. “I was, like, ‘Oh, isn’t that one pretty,’ and ‘Oh, look at that pretty color.’ Color was a really big thing for me. I eventually got what I wanted, because I custom-ordered it -- a metallic-orange paint job.”

So, it’s true, then? Even an articulate, educated, New York professional woman is attracted to the archetypical “shiny object”?

“It’s true,” says Avery without pause. “If I could have bought a Laura Ashley car, I would have.”

On the flip side, Rick Scheidt, executive director for product marketing at Chevrolet, points to one fact that won’t surprise any of us: Sporty, brawny, high-revving road rockets are way, way more popular with men than with women.

“If you look at Corvette owners, it’s probably 90 percent men. But when we ask further about who influenced the decision to purchase that vehicle, about 20 percent say that the decision was made mutually between the man and his wife or girlfriend,” he notes.

For comparison purposes, Scheidt says he expects that Chevy Cruze buyers will be about 55 percent female, maybe more.

The clich?hat still abounds, of course, is that men who buy high-priced, high-performance, phallic-shaped sports cars are trying to make a statement of a different sort.

“Yeah, that’s a tough one to call,” says Avery. “If a guy picked me up in a Corvette, I might think, ‘What’s he trying to prove?’ But the other part of me would think that’s a sexy car -- for a man. I wouldn’t think it was a sexy car for me. Just like I would think leather seats in a man’s car were sexy, but I would never have them in my own car.

“Which, again, just gets at the difference between what each gender thinks is sexy in car -- what’s sexy in a man’s car isn’t necessarily sexy in a woman’s car. I love my car, with its orange paint job, which I think is very sexy for me. But if a man showed up in my car, I might start making assumptions about him, and his sexuality,” she cracks.

Then there’s that much-dissected notion that women are “more emotional” in general than men are, a stereotype that is not typically borne out when it comes to buying cars, says Scheidt

“We actually tend to find that it’s women who are more rational in their purchases, taking into account things like price, reliability, gas mileage, comfort, etc.,” says Scheidt. “But we often see men buying high-priced sports cars with engines that are much bigger, and much more powerful, than they will ever need out on the highway. Most of us really won’t have many opportunities to tap into the full capabilities of a 500-hp engine.

“But they get caught up in that whole sports car culture. Sometimes it’s that variation on the male psyche where the guy has to make sure that his engine is more powerful than his buddies’ engines, a masculine way of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’”

Scheidt says that product designers do take into account the preferences of women, based on market research, when designing certain elements into their vehicles.

“Like, we design things to accommodate longer fingernails. We make sure that the shape of a button or control is such that what’s above the button doesn’t interfere with a longer fingernail. And we design brake pedals and gas pedals in such a way that wearing high heels is not an impediment to operating those pedals.”

But back to the CNW data. The biggest change, from ’06 to ’10, occurred in the importance that women, versus men, placed on a rather benign feature: Cloth seating surfaces. Women ranked cloth seating as 11 percent more important this year, compared to ’06, while men ranked cloth seating as five percent less important.

“Oh, I can see that,” says Avery. “Cloth seats are more comfy, and more homey, more like you’re sitting in your cozy living room.”

Scheidt offers a more pragmatic reason: Cloth seats are less pricey, and “female buyers do skew a bit more toward lower-priced vehicles and options,” he says. “And since the mother generally spends more time driving kids back and forth to soccer practice or dance class, she’s probably more conscious of something like a sharp object in the child’s pants pocket cutting into (an expensive) leather seat.”

The feature that showed the second biggest difference in terms of how it was rated in importance by women, compared to men, over the four-year-period, was bench seats, which were more popular with women in ’06, just as they are today.

“Oh, I think I know why that is,” says Avery. “Women, who spend more time in their cars with their children, want to keep their loved ones near and dear. Plus, women don’t have an issue with sitting close together. They don’t have that ‘terror’ of sitting close that men have.”

Scheidt added that, if a couple has a few small children, a bench seat in the rear “allows you to put three booster seats in, instead of just two.”

Here’s a weird one: This year, women ranked cast alloy wheels as 14 percent more important today than they did in ’06. Men only ranked them as five percent more important this year than four years ago.

“Now, why do you think that is?” says Avery, teasingly. “Come on, you can guess! It’s because it’s jewelry. It looks like jewelry on your car. It’s bling for your car!”

So, it’s settled, then. What women really want, after all, is indeed the shiny object. (That was a joke ... I think.)


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 165 Comments
      bbimley@aol.com
      • 1 Month Ago
      THERE ISN'T A CAR THAT COMES EVEN CLOSE TO A 'VETTE ...I AM SHOPPING FOR MY 4TH ONE....MY HUSBAND DRIVES A 4wd...loves it.....EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.....
      • 1 Month Ago
      I am beyond doubt, a man. I tend to drive what I can get a good deal on in regards to functionality, economy, and fitting my needs. I could give a rat's booty what others think about what I drive. I will be honest in saying that I was drawn to a candy apple red Pontiac Solstice a few years ago...but common sense made me buy a Colorado Crew-cab Pickup instead. Found I didn't like the pickup, due to it being 2WD, so my niece now drives it (and loves it). I still have my old full sized 4WD for camping and vacations, and a dimunitive Chevy Tracker 4X4 for commuting and day trips to the mountains. I found out women like the cute little Tracker or all things! Last weekend I was coming down a 4X4 mountain trail in the Tracker, and a lady stopped me to ask what it was. Too bad they stopped making them in 2004. She would have gone down and bought a brand new one if they were still available, expecially after finding it gets super mileage for a 4WD. To parody a popular country song, "She Thinks My Tracker's Sexy!" Incidentally, my dearly departed elderly mother loved Corvettes to bits! Everytime it was time to trade vehicles, it was I ************ her that they were not very practical.
      gr8bsn
      • 1 Month Ago
      Ladies, this is what it means if a single guy picks you up in a Corvette - He has made a lot of money for himself in a single day and like every red blooded man, likes fast cars. Get over it, he'll gladly let you have the keys to the Minivan.
      Carla
      • 1 Month Ago
      This is a stupid article. My husband picked me up for our first date in a hot little blue mustang, and I was turned on. However, six months into dating, he traded it in for PT Cruiser, and, guess what? The man STILL turned me on. (Still does.) Cars don't matter. Why do these people get paid to write this drivel?
      gr8bsn
      • 1 Month Ago
      "how else do you explain a hot young women sitting in a 100K sports car driven by a 45 year old douchenheimer" - Because she is declaring openly to the world "I am a ***** and this is my price."
      mamariaj
      • 1 Month Ago
      gr8bsn--- I agree with you. Go with leather seats, and they CAN have the option of heated- mine are. (but I didn't know about chilled??)
      fymayawf
      • 1 Month Ago
      I'm not interested in ANY woman who is so superficial as to judge me by the car I own.
      Rod
      • 1 Month Ago
      There are some that are into car, and some that are into shoes. Nuff said. :o)
      James
      • 1 Month Ago
      All women care about is how fat a man's wallet is.
      jrrg
      • 1 Month Ago
      Many years ago it was revealed that the success of the Honda Civic in the U.S. market was based on sales to women. The Japanese studiied the tastes, needs and desires of U.S. women and built the car that their research showed U.S. women wanted. And it sold.
      Sprinkle Cookie
      • 1 Month Ago
      I have a friend who has a 67 Corvette. It looks nice, you can hear the power in the engine, but dammit! You can't hear yourself talk!!! I'm old and single and have been going through a mid-life crisis for the last 30 years, so I have a 2003 Monte Carlo SS. Basically a sound system with a car attached to it. I can at least turn down the volume...
      • 1 Month Ago
      I just recently turned 30 and love Corvettes, this last weekend I had the distinct pleasure of buying my first Corvette a 2008 C6 in Velocity Yellow with 3950 miles. This past weekend I decided that I would go for a drive since my wife 28 was out shopping and to my surprise she had taken the Corvette and she loves the car. In my opinion, people drive what they like and can afford, in my opinion any further analysis is a waste of time.
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