Driving at Windmills

Being an egalitarian and open minded sort of a chap who is interested in motoring, I follow @FOXYtweets on Twitter, which is a feed giving support and tips to women drivers, provided by the Foxy Lady Drivers club.

This morning, they RTed the folowing:


Well, this came as news to me so I had a read of the article to find out what the beef was, going via the footer to find out who the author is and what her agenda might be…

Meet Baroness Kingsmill, a non-executive director of various British, European and US boards, at our Inspiring Women event this Thursday 20th November. Fellow speakers include Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green, Ann Summers CEO Jacqueline Gold, Links of London founder Annoushka Ducas and M&S style director Belinda Earl. Check out the programme and book tickets here at 15% off the full price.

Okay.. let’s see what Labour Peer Denise Kingsmill has to say.

The moment of truth arrived when the hood of my beloved Saab stopped halfway down. I had my four-year-old grandson safely strapped in the backseat, who loved to be driven with the roof down whatever the weather. On cold days I would turn up the brilliant heater, designed to cope with serious Swedish winters, wrap a rug around him and drive home. This time, however, it was truly stuck. A friendly father at the nursery school gate helped me push it down but I realised then it was time to put my 25-year-old workhorse out to grass.

It took a few more weeks before I faced the inevitable fact that, Uber not withstanding, I was going to have to buy a new car. I discussed this with friends and family at length. My children thought I should get something sensible with good safety features, low fuel consumption and a hard top. Friends came up with suggestions left, right and centre.

Uh okay.. so you need a new car, and your friends have opinions on what car you should choose? So far so good.

It was astonishing to me that so many had such strong views about cars. The gender differences were as marked as the generational. The consensus fell somewhere between a Prius and a Porsche, and probably reflected their views of me as much as of the cars.

Okay so, your friends, male and female, young and old, all had their own preferences, and were happy to share them with you. So far so egalitarian. Good.

But wait…

As I researched the options, I checked out the car magazines which, in my local news-agent, were displayed on the top shelf alongside the likes of Hustler and Men Only. All offered a similar macho, laddish approach with much emphasis on acceleration, skid performance and turbos. Many still feature so called ‘glamour models’ draped over bonnets and boots. Not much help to be found there.


Car Mags or Wank Mags?

So, rather than pick up the staple automotive magazines – the ones with the reputation of being ‘go-to’ publications for anyone in the market for a new car, but wanting the latest market news and ideas – such as What Car, Autocar or Auto Express, which have been around forever and are stocked everywhere, you scanned the top shelf and homed in on the car mag equivalent of Nuts or Loaded?

Why did you eschew the obvious and logical choices?

What made you think these top shelf magazines would contain the answers you sought, whereas middle shelf What Car would not?

Of course ‘scuzzy’ car magazines are on the market. There’s a reason why they’re up there on the top shelf along side other ‘mens magazines’. It’s because mags like Fast Car and Max Power are wank mags bought by sexually inadequate spotty teenagers. No-one – I mean NO ONE – would pick one of those up with a view to choosing a new car. They are at the extreme end of the ‘motoring magazine’ market.

So, in short, I call bullshit. Offense-seeking bullshit. If you want to buy a new car, you get What Car. If you want a wank over a half-naked photoshopped doris clasping an exhaust upgrade, you get Max Power.

Simple, innit.

Car Ads

The anointed Denise then turns her attention to car adverts.

I started noticing the car ads, which also seemed to be promoting a stereotyped brand image that hadn’t changed in 30 years, based on a male fantasy of speed and empty plains – all gleaming metal and thrusting torque. Nothing here that appealed. The acclaimed Audi ad, with its slow pan over a stationary vehicle accompanied by the roar of an engine racing and building to an orgasmic climax of glowing, spitting exhausts, left me cold.

I’m assuming that this refers to the Audi R8 advert. A stationary vehicle, revving its engine? Whatever next? Note that the reason the car is not moving is because if it was, the ASA would have banned the advert. I’m not joking.

Well, Denise, that advert may not be to your taste, but it’s all about the car. I’m guessing that an Audi R8 would not appeal to you even if the advert was all babies and bunnies. But that doesn’t make the advert (or the philosophy behind it) sexist.

Ask singer Amy Macdonald, who has had 3 Audi R8s. She’s definitely a woman, and a woman who has an opinion on cars that she reckons are ‘boy racer cars’, citing the Nissan GTR as one, so she is able to make the distinction.

On we go…

Even when trying to appeal to a female audience they get it so dreadfully wrong, as the weird ‘rapping motherhood’ ad for the Fiat 500 that refers to breast pumps and baby poo illustrates so well. Don’t these guys do any research? Don’t they know who buys their products? Are they really all sexually inadequate fantasists or crazy mums?

They should read the recently published study Women in Cars from consultants Frost & Sullivan to get some deeper insights into the automotive segment and the rapidly growing female purchasing power.

I’m pretty sure they do read those studies.

I’m pretty sure, also, that they read the zeitgeist, which tells them that while making misogynistic car adverts is a no-no with the ASA and also with the buying public, making misandrist adverts that positively revel in depicting men as inadequate, subservient imbeciles is positively de-rigeur.

Oh, sure, this misandrist trend, originating in the USA, may not have inveigled its way into car adverts as comprehensively as it has into other types of TV ads, but it’s getting there.

Is it this lack of misandrist progress what the Baroness is bemoaning?

Now, look, I’m not being all “what about teh menz”. I honestly couldn’t give a toss about adverts depicting men as total morons. God knows there enough proof out there that they’re right, but I just can’t help thinking that a massive straw man is being built here, which can later be burned down at an event called ‘Inspiring Women’, with a cackling Harriet Harman looking on, heating her cauldron on the flames.


Car Showrooms

When I actually ventured into the showrooms I was generally treated with courtesy and patience, however, it was rapidly apparent that they were more interested in telling me about the finance packages available than about the cars. Everyone wanted to offer me a deal. In the year to August, more than £11bn of credit was advanced to fund car purchases, accounting for more than 74% of sales. With very high levels of unemployment and weak growth throughout the rest of Europe, the manufacturers are looking to the UK with its consumer tolerance of high levels of personal debt. ‘Treasure Island’ is what they sometimes call the UK market. Desperate to sell cars, they are offering cheap finance through banks and finance houses to inflate sales. How sustainable this may be is questionable. Many customers, too, are using windfalls from refunds from the banks after being missold products as deposits.

Uh.. what? What precisely is the point of this?

There’s no gender difference here. Whether you are male, female or none of the above, car dealers are there to sell you a car. That’s what they’re interested in, and most of them will get down to commercials as soon as they possibly can. In the mainstream car market, they’re selling a commodity and volume is key. Go into a Ferrari or a Bentley dealership if you want the full monte experience of attentive obsequy from the salesman.

Or perhaps there’s a point being brushed upon, about the ‘exploitation’ of gullible and greedy UK consumers by a rapacious car manufacturers. It’s not altogether clear, but there’s a whiff of some sort of ‘it’s not fair, big bad capitalists blah blah’ in that paragraph. Which is interesting coming from someone who is “a non-executive director of various British, European and US boards.”

Sex doesn’t sell cars to women… except when it does.

The Baroness concludes her piece by telling us the outcome.

I eventually made my choice after test driving half a dozen models. It’s a big beast, beautiful and bronze. More Italian elegance than Scandi sturdiness.

So.. umm.. you bought something that is big, beautiful, elegant and stylish? You’re saying that after all of the above… and forgive me if I have the wrong end of the stick here… that even to you, “Sex Sells”?



3 thoughts on “Driving at Windmills

  1. In the event of the “Straw Man” bonfire, could you please arrange for the aforementioned Ms Harman to view the occasion from the inside, emulating the Edward Woodward role in “The Wicker Man”?

    Let me know, and I’ll bring the popcorn…

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