Why is the Car Industry (Still) So Sexist?

* If you don't see a post from me one or two days this week, it's because I will HOPEFULLY (finally?) be making the transition to my redesigned site.  I didn't want you to worry if I go quiet for a short time. *  

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my current car is leased and my lease is almost up.  I need to get a car to drive … and soon.

A week ago, my rarely-in-town husband and I went dealership hopping.  Salesmen came out the minute we appeared on the various car lots, eager to show us cars.

By the way?

Every car salesperson I've encountered so far has been a man.

I haven't seen a female sales person on any of the car lots I've visited.

Do female sales people exist in the car industry?  And if so, as what percentage of the sales workforce?

I find the lack of female presence shocking.  This is (almost) the year 2012, right?  

People are concerned about what when they buy a car?

•  Gas mileage?

•  Safety?

•  Horsepower?

•  Reliability?

•  Stereo systems, navigations systems and cup holders?

And why can't a woman discuss any of those things?

This last weekend, I went car shopping by myself.

Not one sales MAN, at any dealership I visited, greeted me or offered to help me.

What the HELL??

At one lot, I walked up to three salesmen who were just standing there doing nothing.

"Do you work here?" I asked.

"Yes," they nodded.

"Well, could one of you help me then?" I asked nicely.

They looked puzzled.  Maybe shocked?

Where was my husband?

It was clear, by the manner of the salesman helping me, I wasn't being taken seriously.  I asked questions; he answered as if he was indulging an amusing whimsy.

I requested a test drive and he replied, "Really?"

During the test drive, I asked questions about horsepower and torque …

He seemed surprised.

(By the way, I happen to be much more opinionated about engines than my husband.)

After my test drive, I left the dealership feeling like I was never once considered a "serious" buyer.  The salesman's last comment to me was, "And so if you like it enough, your husband will come test drive it and see what he thinks?"

Um ….

NO, no he won't.

My husband is not going to be the one driving this car, I am.

He doesn't want to test drive it – why would he?

Would he want to test drive our neighbor's car that he also won't be driving?

Also, guess who won't be getting my business?

The first car I ever bought (years ago) was a Honda.  The salesman who helped me was friendly, nice, and treated me like an adult.  There was no man involved in helping me buy that car.  

Why would there be? 

I was a single woman, fully supporting myself.  I had a boyfriend at the time, but he wasn't the one buying the car and he wouldn't be the one driving it.  I got a great deal on that Honda.  I drove it for many years.  Eventually, my employer provided me with a "company car" and I no longer needed it.

Why do so many car sales MEN assume a woman is incapable of buying (or selling?) a car?

I honestly can't get over my indignation.

I've now narrowed down my current search to two types of cars.

Guess what?

They were both offered at dealerships where I was treated like an intelligent adult, not an appendage of my husband.

Coincidence?

No, absolutely not.

I will not buy a car from someone who treats me without the same respect they would treat a male customer.

Wake up car industry - 

It's (almost) 2012.

© Twenty Four At Heart

13 Responses to “Why is the Car Industry (Still) So Sexist?”

  1. Jan

    I was not only completely ignored when we bought our car, but also when we bought our *house* – not by the realtor (she knew who to suck up to), but by the mortgage people. All either of them wanted was my signature, since we were purchasing both jointly. Both were disgusting experiences.

  2. Suzanne

    Pretty F-ing amazing considering that half the population drives the cars they are trying to sell us. And since women generally transport the children, the women would be the ones most concerned about the safety features (and cup holders too!)
    It’s sad really how sexist the car industry still is.
    I can’t wait to see your new car, and your new website!

  3. Pam From Ohio

    Same experience here. A couple of cars ago, my hubby was working evenings, and we had very little time together. I was in the market for a new car, so I went out shopping on my own. The sales people at the first place didn’t seem to notice me at all. I asked for help, and a test drive. The salesman said “why don’t you come back on the weekend with your husband?” WHAT!! I went across the street to another dealer, was treated very professionally, and drove my new car home that night. The 1st salesman called me on Saturday to find out if we were coming in that day, and my hubby told him that I already bought my new car at the competitor across the street. Loved it!!

  4. Denise

    I loathe shopping for vehicles. However, I live in a smaller area than you, a more rural area. And I’ve been treated very well with my last two purchases. I drive a Ford F150 truck. But lots of women in this area drive trucks and so we go in to the dealership with knowledge. I imagine there are more than a few women in the OC who are not knowledgeable about their vehicles except for how pretty and expensive they are. And that’s the clientele they are catering to for the most part, don’t you think?
    Looking forward to your new website!

  5. Judi

    I had a similar experience when we bought our pickup. Hubby had to work, so I went to the dealership alone. As it happened, the truck we had test driven just 2 days earlier was shown in the paper as the “loss leader” ad for the weekend. I showed up a half hour before the dealership opened, and talked to the first salesman who walked up. He kept me there for 3 hours after I showed him the ad and said “I’d like this truck at this price.” He actually said to me at one point, “Well, we have only one at that price.” To which I replied “Good, I only want one and I’m the first one here.” Douche.

  6. Fragrant Liar

    Hopefully, you have some car dealership owners reading your blog, or people who know some and will pass along the word. It’s crazy that you were treated like that. I know of ONE woman who sells cars. And I would buy from her in a heartbeat.

  7. WebSavvyMom

    –>I saw the same thing happen in Virginia. I was ignored unless my husband was with me on the lot. Then we went into good cop / bad cop in the negotiations where I joyfully was the bad cop and pointed out all the features I didn’t “need.” Meanwhile, I’m ALL about bells and whistles in cars.
    We spent almost a full afternoon at one dealership a few years ago shopping for my new car nd it was late so we were able to drive the car home that we wanted until the next day. Instead of going back, we went to a rival dealer across town IN the car, negotiated a price less than the first dealer’s best price and they returned the car for us. It’s hard not to take a client seriously when they’re in a rival’s car that you’re thinking about buying. (I got a bluetooth built in navigation system “for free” because of this.)

  8. Jo Anne

    Should have been with me in 1981 when I was single female with CASH in her pocket to buy brand new car. Could hardly get time of day from any one at any dealership. Remain amazed that I was ever able to close a deal without a man at my side.

  9. Deidre

    I’ve never bought a vehicle, but even just going into the dealership to get my car fixed. I feel like they treat me like a child with no ability to understand what’s wrong with my car. Le sigh.

  10. Dorothy

    I go by myself every time since I am the one driving the car, not him. The first car we shopped for together, I was 25 back in the early 80′s and we had a Pinto to trade in that had brand new tires on it. The subaru dealer ticked me off with his lovely trade in value for it, among other things, and I wouldn’t budge to get the car so I left the men to chat while I went back to our car, no deal as far as I was concerned. I told the salesman I was going back to the Toyota dealer. No fit, just not messing around, even back then (old feminist here). Hubby came back as I sat there ticked off and laughed and said, you got the deal you wanted. It was me, not him that forced the deal. LOL And I’ll tell ya, I am the one who chooses the cars and gets the deals ever since, not him, including his last new truck.
    There are a few women selling cars around here but not many so I deal with men all the time, and I get what I want. I do so much research before I go that I know what I’m doing and they can’t pull stuff on me. I just helped my daughter buy her new vehicle and we did great, no men with us either. The salesmen do try though to act all superior, hmmm…Come into the 21 century guys. Us silly little women got brains and aren’t afraid to use them!
    There is a huge dealership with several branches in Rochester, NY that is owned by a woman. I love her! If I lived closer, I would so shop her business. She stresses everything that is important to me.
    Men are having a hard time dealing with the new woman, standing strong in her power, too bad, we are here. Their problem and their loss. Someday they’ll get it.

  11. Lunachance

    The last car I purchased was done almost entirely online. I emailed all the Honda dealerships in Western Washington letting them know that I would be purchasing a car that weekend and gave the trim line I wanted and two options for color. I actually bought from the first person who replied (a woman, selling her first car online), as she had the best deal. I did end up having to make a couple of phone calls to complete the deal as I wanted the floor mats, the door ding wraps and a couple of other options to all be “installed” so I would not have to deal with the usual crap of car dealers… The one thing that really did annoy me was that I had to sit through the salesperson going through the owner’s manual (something required by the dealership). This was my third Honda and my second Accord. I really did not care how to install a baby seat and told them that if I was installing a baby seat, I would not be in the car afterwards (personal choice), so I didn’t care about baby seats. That took a bit over two hours of my life that I will never get back :)

    When purchasing a previous car (where I was going to trade in my car), I was smart enough to give a spare key but I ended up feeling that I was being “jerked around,” so I told the salesman that I was done dealing with him that day and wanted to leave. He told me that they were still evaluating my vehicle for the trade in (but I saw my car had been parked on the side of the building), so he could not give me my car and I could not leave. At that point, I excused myself to go to the restroom, walked outside, put my keys into the car and left the dealership… I got several calls from the salesman and told him that I would never purchase from him, not would I buy from that dealership… This was back in the day, before the keys had chips in them. I do have to say it felt good to walk away from a salesman who thought he had the upperhand…

    Lunachance

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