Auto Dealers are Sexist
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UPDATED: Apr 18, 2012
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Women have been fighting for equal rights since mankind’s earliest years. The civil rights movement played a huge part in empowering women, and propelling them onto a relatively equal playing field, but there are still some areas in our culture that are noticeably lacking. Income is one of the most obvious, as women are reported to earn 77 cents to the dollar compared to their male counterparts. But there’s another, less apparent sector of society that some claim are oppressing females: the auto industry.
Females make up roughly 50 percent of our population, influence 85 percent of all car sales, and were the primary auto loan holders in 52 percent of all new vehicle purchases, but are still set aside by car salesmen in favor of male auto loan borrowers, according to a Forbes report.
“One of my colleagues was buying a car recently, and she became more and more irritated because the car salesman was talking only to her husband,” explained Mary Lou Quinlan, an author, consultant, and advocate for women’s empowerment, reported Forbes. “So she said, ‘You know, I feel like you’re not paying any attention to what I say.’”
The car salesman refuted, saying he was, in fact, paying attention to her.
“Oh yeah?” Quinlan’s friend replied. “What’s my name?”
The salesman, who repeated the woman’s husband’s name over and over during his spiel, sat idle, wide-eyed, and speechless.
‘It’s a Very Male Culture’
The auto loan industry is one that’s owned by men, with approximately 95 percent of the country’s 20,000 auto dealers in the National Automobile Dealers Association owned by men, according to Forbes.
“It’s a very male culture. They’re family businesses, and they’ve been owned by men for a long time, so that’s part of the culture,” said Jody DeVere, president and CEO of Ask Patty, a website staffed by female car experts who give advice on auto loans and vehicle purchases.
Indeed, even in practice male auto loan borrowers tend to be more “car-oriented.” According to an article by the Huffington Post, men do tend to be more knowledgeable about cars in terms of how they work, who makes what model, and how certain vehicles are rated by experts.
This disparity in knowledge is another means for female subjugation. David Sturtz, CEO of the smart phone app RepairPal, told CNET News about a study his company did. 50 calls were made by male auto loan borrowers to car repair shops asking for a price quote on certain repairs. Then 50 more calls were made to the same shops, for the same repairs, but these new calls were by women. The women received price quotes 17 percent higher than their male counterparts, for the exact same repairs from the exact same shops.
A Kiplinger article revealed that women sense this inequality as well. “I felt as though I was being misled because I was a woman and didn’t know too much about cars,” said a woman named Victoria Rumsey, reported the author.
Then consider this advertisement that was ran by Dale Wurfel, a Canadian auto dealer who incited a massive backlash as a result of this campaign comparing beautiful women to his used vehicles:
Careful Not to Overcorrect
But in recognizing the fact that women aren’t treated as equals by the auto industry, we should be very careful not to “overcorrect” the situation.
According to an article by the Huffington Post, male auto loan borrowers are treated better, given more attention, and targeted more often by auto dealers than their female counterparts. The two female authors of that article say this behavior is sexist, but then go on to say male auto loan borrowers “tend to be less rational about their car purchases than women.”
Their claim is based on their own interviews with buyers and salespeople, who apparently had the resources to make such a blanket statement as “[men] are more likely to carry into adulthood and unshakeable desire for their childhood ‘dream car.’”
The authors then continue to hastily summarize the results of a different study by saying, “In other words, men cared about what other people would see when they were driving; the women cared about whether or not they could see when they were driving.”
To classify the entire male sex as materialistic and vain is hardly winning any points in the fight for gender equality. Rather it’s counterproductive, doing no favors for either males or females.
Wurfel, the Canadian auto dealer attempting to catch the eye of auto loan borrowers with his “sexist” ad above, ran another ad simultaneously:
Without condoning either of these ads, it’s worth mentioning the backlash for this one was virtually non-existent—which again points towards the “sexist” double-standard that may be more prominent in our culture than many would care to admit.
Due to the inherent passion that comes with the subject of sexist accusations, it’s easy to swing the pendulum from one side of the sexist scale to the other; overcorrecting the problem and turning the oppressors into the oppressed.