While the automotive industry is preparing for a step-change in the way cars are built, powered and sold, it’s ignoring a growing gender gap among its customers that may well be a blocker for mass adoption of electric cars in the UK.
That’s one of the findings to come from a series of research projects carried out by Auto Trader, which looked at why women feel disenfranchised with the car-buying process, and how carmakers, dealers and suppliers can engage women better with electric cars.
Ultimately, the research found that women are being left behind in the electrification of cars and the problems are easily fixed.
Motoring journalist and Auto Trader editorial director Erin Baker told Car Dealer Live: ‘There’s already a huge gender gap in automotive on both B2B and B2C levels, meaning there aren’t women inside the industry.
‘There aren’t enough women in retailers, OEMs and inside my industry – motoring journalism.
‘If you look at the stats from the Automotive 30% Club run by Julia Muir, women form around 20 per cent of the automotive workforce, but that falls to around 10 per cent at executive level.
‘Why is this an issue? Well, if you look at the consumer and the people we are selling cars to, women are almost half of the drivers out there.
‘More women are getting their driving licences, buying cars and becoming financially independent, and more of them are becoming the primary purchaser rather than the influencer behind the purchase.
‘There is a huge disparity.’
The findings of the research have been published in a new Auto Trader report called ‘No Driver Left Behind: Women and the journey to electric’.
In the report’s introduction, Baker says: ‘Men have historically designed, engineered, manufactured, marketed, advertised, sold, bought, driven, written and read about cars.
‘Women have been excluded, ignored, patronised and mansplained to by brands, marketing and the industry, almost to the point of total alienation.’
She adds: ‘You’d be forgiven for assuming the advent of electric vehicles (EVs), with their more lifestyle-oriented stories around sustainable materials, enhanced services and carbon footprints, would fundamentally change this relationship for the better.’
However, Baker, speaking on Car Dealer Live – which you can watch at the top of this story – said that change isn’t happening.
‘I assumed that gender gap would naturally narrow because women love sustainable products. If you look outside of the automotive world, women are more interested than men in buying sustainable make-up, fashion, leather goods and more.
‘With electric cars, the conversations aren’t about powertrains, understeer and oversteer and naturally aspirated V12s. Instead, we are talking about very lifestyle-orientated products with sustainable materials.
‘However it [that gender gap narrowing] wasn’t happening – it’s actually widening.’
The report found that there were assumptions women would feel more engaged with the electric car buying process, but ‘pre-existing disengagements’ from traditional petrol and diesel car buying journeys are having a major effect.
Instead of being more engaged, women are feeling more excluded than arguably ever before.
The report goes into minute depth about the problems women are encountering and the challenges the car industry faces, but it does also offer solutions on how to prevent leaving women behind in the journey to mass electric motoring.
For dealers, the suggestions include showcasing and marketing electric cars in more engaging ways, and using different language and approaches on social media and marketing communications.
Baker said: ‘We cannot continue to tread the same path, in terms of language, jargon, the media platforms we use, the advertising images we create, the proactive campaigns we dream up or the way we talk to female drivers.
‘We need to respond to the data in this report, and start thinking outside the box, or women will be left behind on the road to 2030.’
The full interview with Erin Baker can be watched at the top of this story, and you can click here to read the in-depth report