- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2001

Get thee to thy car, woman. The automobile, it seems, has turned out to be a girl's best friend.
"Given the challenges women face today, the car has emerged as women's newest personal sanctuary," said psychologist Joyce Brothers, who has long charted the touchy-feely underpinnings of humanity.
"It brings new definition to the term 'getaway car.' In some cases the car has become the last corner of solitude for an intimate moment," she added.
Uh-oh. Mothers used to warn their daughters about intimate moments in automobiles. In this case, Miss Brothers is referring to those rarified personal reveries of the modern female at 70 mph, away from the clatter and clutter of work and family.
According to a new survey from Yankelovich Partners and Unilever, 92 percent of female drivers eat in a car, 72 percent do their makeup and 65 percent finish off their hairstyle — while driving.
This worries Miss Brothers, who frets that women are "driving themselves to exhaustion as they respond to societal pressures to look great and lead on-the-go lives."
She has a point. According to the Department of Transportation, women spend an average of 70 minutes a day in their car the equivalent of about 17 days per year.
But it is more than that. Women drivers, perhaps to the consternation of old-fashioned grease monkeys, are muscling in on some he-man automotive turf.
The Women's Television Network, in fact, will present a 13-part documentary series about "women and their relationship with automobiles," which the cable channel describes as "shocking and occasionally unbelievable."
Still, the series may have a ready audience. Women now constitute half the drivers on American roadways, and half the car buyers as well — shelling out about $343 billion a year for new and used cars, and their maintenance costs.
According to the Ohio-based Car Care Council, women account for 65 percent of the customers at auto service shops nationwide.
The group also reports that 83 percent of all women are responsible for their own auto maintenance and 73 percent said they wanted to learn the basics of car repair.
Along with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, the Car Care Council is urging repair shops to pretty up waiting rooms, hire female technicians and hone their communications skills.
"A greater comfort level can turn the whole repair experience into a more positive one," said the Council's Donna Wagner.
"Repair businesses that respond to women's needs and expectations," said Indy race car driver Lyn St. James, "are making smart business decisions."
There's a whole element out there, however, who don't care much about their comfort levels.
The Seattle-based Greasergirls have provided "a place where women can be passionate about cars," according to the Seattle Times, and features a woman in coveralls waving a wrench as their logo.
There are dozens of feminine road rally clubs around the country, including six devoted to customized off-road Jeeps alone.
Illinois-based marketing company Thunder Valley Racing, meanwhile, develops female race car drivers and grooms them for corporate sponsorship, claiming the women-car thing is "an untapped market."
Still, the old car gender wars continue. A Wirthin Worldwide survey found that 57 percent of male respondents said that men were the safest drivers; among women, only 27 percent agreed with that claim.
Oddly enough, a Progressive Insurance survey determined that men were three times more likely to be out washing their car on a Saturday afternoon, and would describe their cars as "sexy and aggressive."
Women, on the other hand, were more likely to classify their cars "smart and friendly." Seventy-two percent of both the men and women, however, said their car reflected their personalities.

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