Girl Torque

’And there is even space for your handbag madam…’

This is absolutely not what most women want to hear when buying a car, but that is exactly what happened to my very discerning neighbour. By Fiona Shafer, Managing Director of MD HUB


“When I took my Range Rover Evoque for its first service, I drew their attention to the airbag light being constantly on. I was told it was because ‘you ladies do like to put your handbags on the seat!’ When I needed to get the first MOT done, which it would have failed, the dealership told me it was a Land Rover issue. Land Rover Assist came to the house and told me that I had been driving the car for three years with the airbag system disabled because of a loose connection. I wonder if a man would have been given the ‘handbag’ excuse?”

Taking a straw poll of experiences from friends, family and business colleagues in recent weeks as to both good and bad car buying experiences, such comments seem to be still frustratingly and unnecessarily commonplace.

This column originated back in 2018, when I was bending Maarten Hoffmann’s ear back for the umpteenth time about how badly women were treated in many car dealerships by male salespeople. They clearly had no idea that women make 80% of the buying decisions in households, and that by not treating women equally when buying cars, they were not doing the trade, car brand or women any favours.

It appeared utterly illogical to me as a business woman as well, as it also meant that both profits and reputation would go down the pan as women are exceptionally good at spreading the word when hacked off – especially when it comes to cars.


Further tales of woe followed

“Ordinarily I would have walked away from this dealership but they are the only local dealer who sell Minis – a brand to which I am loyal. I have been a customer for over ten years but have had dire customer service. Most recently I seriously enquired about upgrading my current car (having bought five cars from them previously). I wasn’t offered a test drive and was just allowed to sit in it for five minutes. It took almost a week to get a quotation and then they never responded to my query – clearly not interested in a sale.” – Hacked off woman #1

“Previously, they had sought to conceal damage to cars I have purchased including a significant windscreen crack and dent. Their piece-de-resistance was accidentally selling a car I had placed a deposit on to someone else. I always feel patronised and fobbed off by the male sales staff.” – Hacked off woman #2

“I went to buy a Range Rover Evoque, and the dealer spoke to my husband the entire time, despite me asking questions about the car that I was clearly buying for myself. Misogyny is alive and well at that Range Rover dealership. Sigh” – Hacked off woman #3

“Every time I asked a question he replied to my husband. On the third response, my husband said something along the lines of, “you know, I think you’ve just blown it, mate. This car is for my wife. She is buying it and you should be talking to her. We left.” – Hacked off woman #4

I have too many experiences of my own, including putting a £1,500 deposit down on a secondhand BMW that had just been part-exchanged, and was being taken off to be valeted for me to test drive on the Monday. The car was too low for me in the end and I changed my mind and said that I would continue to research other BMW models. When I asked for my deposit back, the salesman said he would rather not give it back to me until I had found something else as it would muck up his paperwork. His commission, more like…

But there does appear to be some light at the end of a very long tunnel.

A dear friend, who has worked behind the scenes for almost 40 years in the motor trade at a Vauxhall dealership, has seen many changes, “The younger generation of salesmen we have now are wonderful. They are polite and genuinely kind, nothing like the male chauvinistic bunch of the past. We all work as a team regardless of our gender, so maybe times are a changing for the motor trade?”

And ending on a very positive note, one of our MDHUB Advisory Board members commented, “I went to test drive a Tesla, and from the moment we walked into the dealership, the sales chap was excellent. We had a full on conversation about the innovation and ground-breaking thinking behind the vehicles before stepping into one and testing out the 0-60mph (on a suitable road).

“The dealer was thoroughly engaged – and engaging – throughout the whole experience and it was more like going on an adventure day than a test drive. Ten out of ten, and a massive ‘high five’ to Tesla”.

Top tips to salesmen for selling a car to a woman

• Listen to what her requirements are
• Never, ever presume you can read her mind
• Look her in the eye and only talk to her (not her partner, husband or friend)
• Expect a woman to negotiate with you
• Learn how to speak to women (as obviously car sales people don’t know) as female car buyers are increasing at 21% per year
• Bear in mind that over 74% of men buying cars are heavily influenced by their female partner. This means that over 95% of car purchases are controlled by women

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