So what do women really want from a car?


    Step back four or five decades, and consider how little thought was put into a female’s perspective when it came to designing cars. The cliché about snapping expensive French manicured fingernails while driving isn’t just a cliché: badly positioned windscreen wiper stalks, carelessly placed bonnet openers, tyre-puncture repair kits … all of which could cause manicure casualties.

    Woman Cars Johannesburg 2011

    “I want a car that looks good, performs well, can accommodate me and my husband, and two children in car seats, along with our weekend luggage,” said Laura Myers, a hectically busy saleswoman and mother in Durban. “Far more important than a rev counter is an efficient air-conditioning system, child locks, and leather seats that wipe clean. Most important of all are the safety features. I need to know my family will be protected as much as possible in the event of an accident.” And, she added as an aside, “I’d be hugely annoyed if I were to break a nail while opening the bonnet!”

    Michael Albano of GM’s global design group said on the CNN Living website that 85% of all vehicle sales decisions were influenced by women, with women buying 45% of all vehicles. So when it comes to car interiors, for instance, GM pays particular attention to details in trim, fabric, colours and compartments, shapes and positioning of controls.

    “Storage is also a big deal to women buyers whether it’s room for groceries, handbags, kids’ toys, foldable seats or built-in car booster seats,” he added.

    As for exteriors, “women want great designs, but they also don’t want to compromise on safety and efficiency”, he noted. “So we pay particular attention to proportions and stance, including the wheel-to-body relationship.”

    Johannesburg’s Lorraine Forbes has always opted for reliable brands, because of safety and efficiency, as “that’s very important to me.”Apart from that, I love soul in a car: the interior has to appeal to my senses, yet practicality must be in the mix, too. And with teenage children, boot space is of huge importance, as well as leg room for gangling boys.

    Mother-of-one Sumayia Khan, an accountant from Durban, said looks were a priority in her choice of car, but she also required top-notch safety features, both active and passive. “Gizmos aren’t a necessity. Cup holders, for instance: it’s not the quantity but the positioning of them that is critical. I’m sure many of these were designed by men, because they are so often impractically placed.”

    One website blogger, known just as BlogHer, wrote: “Comfort is important. I like adjustable seats. We aren’t all built the same and it’s nice to be able to tilt and adjust the seats as needed. I hate that it’s a premium feature in a car. Just because we aren’t independently wealthy doesn’t mean we should have to suffer with uncomfortable seats. Also, this is a little thing, but I want headrests that are pony-tail friendly. I like the ones with holes in them myself, but basically I want to be able to lean my head back!”

    Amen to that! Headrests are the bane of most women’s lives, because they are not designed for pony-tails or indeed, many of today’s hairstyles.

    So are we any closer to knowing what women want from a vehicle? According to Volvo research, it’s fairly simple: we want a car that has plenty of storage; is easy to park; has good visibility, is easy to get in and out of; can be personalised and requires minimal maintenance.

    But don’t forget, the comfort, the easy-to-clean upholstery, the efficient aircon/heating system, the leg room for teenagers, the good looks and, of course, the soul.

    So where to find the ultimate car of a woman’s dreams? A good place to start would be the

    Johannesburg Motor Show

    , at the Expo Centre, Nasrec, from October 6–16. This year’s show promises to be the best ever staged in South Africa – and on the African continent for that matter.

    You’ll be able to pick up all the latest information on vehicles of all shapes and sizes, as well as changing technologies, and there will be at least 30 new models being announced at the show. It will be an opportunity not to be missed for all members of a family, even if you are not in the market to buy a new car at this time. Comparing the various models at one time and one place is something that does not happen often.

    The first two days of the show – 6/7 October – are for the media and invited VIP guests. Admission charges for the remaining nine days of the show will be R80 for adults and R20 for children aged six to 12.