In most matters in life, women are the more emotional ones while men bite their lip and keep their wits, even when they are feeling the exact opposite. But Mike, a car dealer, says that it is easier to sell cars to men. Often, the deal gets concluded very fast. They usually come in with a particular car in mind and if they find it, and the quality is good, they take it. But with women, the process takes much longer.
He captures women’s behaviour: "Women consult widely and will visit many car bazaars before they settle on a shortlist of cars. It gets more complicated if she has a husband, a boyfriend or a male relative who is to be consulted before the final decision is made. Sometimes she will go home and be told a particular model is bad and she changes her mind," he says.
Mike says that such ‘advisors’ operate on the basis of hearsay, rumour or personal preference instead of information and facts.
Henry Kamugisha argues that a female car buyer is a most demanding customer and catering for her needs is almost an exact science. All the details must be exactly right and if one detail is wrong, even if it doesn’t affect the running of the car, the woman buyer may forego the car.
One key detail is colour. "Women like peculiar (sic) colours," Henry says. "White and grey and to an extent, black, are unpopular with women. They like lime, yellow, pink and any colour that is unique. Sourcing such cars is not very easy though."
Our roads have recently become crowded with tiny Toyota Vitz and RAV4s Before that, it was the Toyota Starlet. Almost all of these tiny cars, from anecdotal evidence, seem to be bought and driven by women. What exactly is behind this trend? It depends on who you ask. Henry is of the opinion that women are not the best drivers, certainly not as good as men. Men are also generally bigger or taller. This, he argues, is why men go for big cars while women prefer small ones.
"Women like small cars because they are able to see all around easily. This is very useful when parking in small spaces in town. It also adds to a sense of security," he says.
Susan, a female sales executive has a different take on the matter. The key issue, she argues, is that women are very sensitive to fuel economy. While the young lad wants to be seen in a loud, petrol-guzzling Subaru Impreza, his female counterpart is more sensible. She watches her money far too closely to drain it away at the petrol pump.
A man’s status and self image, she says, is very attached to his car, unlike a woman’s. Susan agrees with Henry that small cars are more secure. What Henry is alluding to, however, is the sense of security that comes with being inside a small car; that snug, warm feeling of being in a tight space inside a car that is easy to manoeuvre in.
Susan adds that there is a breed of women who go for the big car. "Women with families care a great deal about reliability and running costs as well, but you find that their first priority is space. They are less picky about colour and more interested in whether they can comfortably meet their big family needs," she says.
Even with luxury cars, women will still go for the less pricey package. They will not necessarily opt for the sexiest and fastest cars, one able to zoom from zero to 100 kph in less than five seconds. They instead will choose the safest cars, especially in case of a head-on collision. Therefore, the woman’s instinct for safety and reliability does not fade away with increased financial clout.
Charity a Kenyan expatriate working in Rwanda, recently, bought a four-door Volkswagen Golf and points out that she considers it a luxury car but with good fuel consumption.
"Believe it or not," she says, "this car consumes just as reasonably as the Toyota I had before, but with way more prestige attached to it. It’s a beautiful German car." Her favourite sports car, she says, is the Mitsubishi Evolution.
Julius, a young businessman, drives a BMW and bluntly agrees that a man is his car is visible. He argues the Beemer has won him many admirers and quite a few suitors. "However", he notes, "While I prefer a woman who drives, because this indicates education and financial independence, I don’t really pay much attention to the make or model of her car. Unless it’s bigger or more expensive than mine, in which case I keep my distance. Such a woman is likely to be trouble down the road."
So there. For men, a car is a work of art, an expression of virility and a tool of seduction. Women, however, just want to get from point A to B safely, at the lowest cost and in the nicest colour.