The 2000 film What Women Want found Mel Gibson able to read the thoughts of women, at least temporarily — and he didn’t like what he heard.
Rather than a ladies man, they thought he was a sleaze and could barely tolerate him, but like most romantic comedies it all comes out well in the end.
Fast forward and you might be surprised to learn that when it comes to cars, women prize safety as the single most important feature, ahead of style and performance — at least those surveyed did.
The survey was commissioned by South African insurer 1st for Women with the help of members of the Women’s World Car of the Year (WWCOTY) judging panel.
It was coordinated by South African judge Charleen Clarke and found that practicality, performance, and space are all tied for second place behind safety.
WWCOTY judges also highlighted other features that are important to women.
“I recently conducted a survey into the most wanted automotive features by women and around 14 000 female motorists participated. The outcome was that safety features and the seating position (the higher, the better) are extremely important to women,” Sebian judge Tina Vujanović said.
Safety is a key consideration when buying a car in many countries, agrees Vietnam’s Mebi Nguyễn.
“Women look for safety features like a backup camera, blind spot monitoring, and ABS. They also look for convenience features such as storage pockets, cupholders, and air-conditioning,” she said.
USA’s Elana Scherr also rates safety highly. “I know many of my female friends prioritise safety ratings and fuel economy, followed by appearance and interior.”
But safety is not the only key consideration for women when it comes to buying a car.
Their purchasing decision is based on multiple factors such as behaviour and performance.
Hungary’s Kurcz Erzsébet Magyarország said that handling and reliability are critical to women.
“The following qualities are important in a car: handling, ease of operation, safety, power, an aesthetic interior, and environmental impact. The most important consideration for me is reliability.”
It all points to the fact that women’s approach to the automotive world is more rational than emotional.
Chile’s Fran Muñoz said that contrary to popular belief women rely on the head rather than the heart when it comes to choosing a car.
“Women are increasingly well informed and are always interested in having as much information as possible at hand when deciding to buy a car.”
In fact, when it comes to buying a car, women’s priorities are often determined by the specific needs of each individual’s situation.
As Nicole Wakelin, another jury member representing the USA, points out, women look for features that simplify day-to-day life.
“That’s not the same set of features for every woman. Those who commute want comfort and a responsive yet fuel-efficient car.
“Mums seek out room for the kids and all their stuff, as well as easy access to buckle squirming toddlers into car seats. It’s all about making life easier.”
Shereen Shabnam, from the Emirates believes that “some women who play multiple roles in the family look for power, as they need a car that can get them to their destination faster”.
Another area of interest for women in the 21st century is the environment, with vehicle emissions becoming an issue of growing concern for women drivers.
Study coordinator Charleen Clarke said female motorists are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of cars.
“Accordingly, women are studying emission data and, wherever possible, they’re selecting a ‘greener’ motoring option.
“In summary, the study conducted on our behalf clearly shows rationality to be very important in car purchase decision-making by women, while safety, functionality, reliability, performance, and the environment are among the most important factors to be taken into account.”