When Fiat announced its re-entry into the U.S. market with the teeny revamped 500 model a few years back, their ad campaign was unashamedly aimed at the female car buyer, the theme being: “The Italians Are Coming!” It was a brilliant piece of positioning, because the small car / indifferent performance / cute factor was never going to attract too many heterosexual or non-metrosexual men. And it wasn’t the first time Fiat had gone down that road, so to speak:
…which led to this:
VW, of course, had used the same positioning with their relaunch of the revamped (and awful) Bug — less overtly, but with the standard accessory of that cutesy little single-stem flower holder on the dashboard, the target market was quite obvious.
Marketing aside, however, quite a few cars have always appeared to me to be perfect “ladies’ cars”, as much for their petite-ness as for anything else. Here’s the Lancia Fulvia of the late 1960s:
Even the Mercedes 230 SL of the same era was, I think, positioned in the same niche:
Both had engines that were respectable enough — for sure, neither was underpowered — but the cars were definitely not hot rods, by any stretch of the imagination. My mother always dreamed of having a “pagoda top” (never happened, sadly — she had to suffer with an Austin Healey 3000 instead), and even New Wife, on seeing a beautifully-restored 230 SL poodling around Plano, was impressed enough to comment.
The difference between the two eras, by the way, is that in the so-called “pre-feminist” era of the early 1960s, neither the Fulvia nor the 230 SL were ever overtly marketed at women. Whether it was because, in those days, men made the car purchase decisions on behalf of their wives or daughters, or whether the car manufacturers’ marketing departments didn’t want to risk alienating potential male customers by positioning those models as “chick cars”, I have no idea.
Of course, the modern take on positioning your car in the female market reached its apogee when Subaru made their cars the choice of lesbians. (Think about that if you’re considering a new Outback or Forester.) And while the Mazda Miata became the fashion statement for West Coast homosexual men, it was never marketed as such. (For those who want to find cars to avoid because they’re associated with lesbians and homos, this tongue-in-cheek [sic] list will spell them out for you.)
I don’t have a problem with cars best driven by women. I think a woman looks better in a Lancia Fulvia than in a Pontiac TransAm or Camaro, by the way. But then again I’m a sucker for classy, feminine women, so take that anyway you want. No prizes for guessing which one of these I think is more appealing:
As Mr. Free Market says: I’m just too old-fashioned to live.
By the way, lest you think I was having a go at metrosexuals and the Fiat 500 in my earlier comment, note this British ad:
Oh, and by the way, if we’re talking about then and now, here’s an old take on Fiat’s open-top:
…and their new one, by way of Gucci:
I should point out that the older Fiat 500 was originally marketed as a family car. The modern one? Not quite so much.