- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Trucks are no longer just a guy thing. Women are becoming a force in the truck market, buying more sport utility vehicles, pickups and minivans combined than ever before, according to a survey conducted by R.L. Polk Automotive Intelligence.
Almost twice as many women are buying SUVs today than five years ago, although fewer are buying pickup trucks. Women are buying SUVs more than any other new auto, surpassing the traditionally more popular midsize car.
"Women buy whatever is practical for them and whatever fits their image of themselves," said Sandra Kinsler, editor in chief of WomanMotorist.com. "The implication of this is that they need more space to haul things and the power to tow them and that they feel the image of a truck fits their perception of themselves tough, independent, efficient, hard-working."
Of the top six cars registered to women from January to October 2001, the Ford F-Series pickup ranked third, the Chevrolet Silverado pickup was fifth and the Ford Explorer SUV was sixth, according to Polk. Although SUVs have gained in popularity among women, more Ford pickup trucks were bought than the most popular SUV.
Steven Sturm, Toyota's vice president of marketing, said the majority of pickup buyers are men, but more women have been buying all types of trucks. Mr. Sturm said pickup trucks are still marketed toward men, but Toyota markets some SUVs toward women because the vehicles appeal to them. They include the RAV4 and Highlander.
"When we market a product, we tend to market the specific product, as opposed to the general classification of the product," he said. "Each product appeals to a unique demographic group, and with that, they need to make those appeals most direct."
Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said the compact SUVs, such as the RAV4 and the Highlander, are part of a category of SUVs called crossovers that is accounting for all of the growth in the market. These SUVs are built on platforms designed for cars, so the vehicles ride and handle more like a car than a traditional SUV.
"This category is expected to be very strong for the next 10 years," Mr. Taylor said. "New vehicle offerings that are more fully responsive to customer needs are what's driving sales growth in our industry."
Daryl Pearson, sales manager at Curtis Chevrolet in Northwest, said he "definitely" has noticed the trend.
"It was very, very rare to find a woman who would be in this market," Mr. Pearson said. "Now, women constitute about 40 [percent] to 45 percent of the buyers."
Mr. Pearson said it is "refreshing" to see more women buying trucks.
"Women seem more independent," he said. "They are making their own decisions now."
Pam Bradley had a pickup truck in college, and even though the truck was a hand-me-down, she said she would like to buy another one.
"I drove an old Jeep pickup truck. I could do anything I wanted with it," she said. "I loved it."
Miss Kinsler said the trend has been reflected in the questions women have been asking the magazine.
"We noticed the trend four years ago when we started to see an increase in household truck ownership among our readers," she said. "However, our readers always purchased pickup trucks at about twice the national average."
The magazine reaches about one-fourth of the women who buy new vehicles each year, she said.
Whether advertising is a factor in the new popularity of pickups among women is debatable.
"They claim they are doing more advertising to women, but we don't see it," Miss Kinsler said. "When we analyze the industry, we see a much higher percentage of all media dollars skewing the campaigns male."
Marketing could be a factor, Mr. Pearson said, but he said the new luxuries of trucks are appealing.
"You know, if you get inside more of these trucks, there's more creature comfort than there used to be," he said.
Rita Gibson, a D.C. resident who is in the market for a GMC Denali, said the nicer designs make trucks more attractive. She also said women's attitudes might be changing.
Miss Kinsler attributes the lack of advertising aimed at women to fear.
"I believe the automakers are afraid of advertising directly to women who are in the market to purchase a vehicle," she said. "I have been told by several automakers that they fear that if they advertise to women especially if they show women driving the cars in their ads that their cars will be pegged as 'chicks' cars' and become unattractive to men."
Miss Kinsler says she thinks this fear is unwarranted and "foolish."
"And in the words of the inimitable David Ogilvy, 'The consumer isn't stupid, she's your wife.'"
Miss Bradley said her truck was practical during college because students needed one while moving. But she had to get rid of it and be "responsible" because it got poor gas mileage and kept breaking down because it was old.
Surprising people with it was fun, she said.
"People didn't expect to see a little blond woman climb out of this big pickup truck," she said. "I did feel pretty cool in it."
Ms. Gibson agrees.
"I love the ride," she said. "I love sitting on top of the world."


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