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Men go for flashy cars, women want small imports

The Porsche 911 is the ultimate macho machine, or so says a new study.
The Porsche 911 is the ultimate macho machine, or so says a new study.PRNewsFoto/Porsche Cars North Am

While we’re often warned to steer clear of stereotypes, the fact is that they’re often accurate and useful.  And nowhere, it seems, is that more true than when it comes to identifying the type of cars men and women choose.

Guys, a new study reveals, like cars that are flashy, big and brawny.  They love the smell of petrol and the sound of a big V-8.  Women, on the other hand, like smaller imports powered by fuel-efficient I-4s.  That said, the survey by also suggests that the traditional automotive gender gap is narrowing.

“While gender preferences amongst the buyers of various automotive brands still exist, the gap is narrowing,” said TrueCar’s Jesse Toprak, Vice President of Market Intelligence. “The SUV and truck-heavy mix of the domestic automakers continue to generate a disproportionate number of male customers, while the exotic brands remain to be the best medicine for a midlife crisis.”

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The data-mining service based its study on over 8 million retail automotive purchases made during 2011 – about 60% of the U.S. total last year.  It reveals that some brands are distinctly male-oriented, while others seem to have a distaff touch.  It also found that it’s possible to turn things around.

Take the third-generation Volkswagen Beetle introduced last year.  The previous generation was often referred to as a “chick” car, men making up only a little more than a third of its customers.  VW officials consciously decided to create a more masculine model with the 2011 remake and the data suggest they pulled it off, with men accounting for nearly half the buyers of the new Beetle.

The brands with the highest percentage of male buyers are exotic imports, such as Bentley, Maserati and Porsche.  Ferrari had the absolutely lowest percentage of women purchasers last year – just 7.5% — but it was the only marque where women constituted less than 10%.  In TrueCar’s 2010 study, the percentage of women was less than 10% for six brands.

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Mini had the highest percentage of women buyers, at 46.2%, according to the third annual demographic study, followed by Nissan, Kia, Honda and Mitsubishi.  Of the top 20 brands appealing to women, 16 were imports – 17 if you include Fiat.  Only three luxury brands, notably Lexus, made that group.

Of the Detroit brands, Chrysler has the highest percentage of women buyers, at a modest 37.8%.  GMC had the least, with men making up 73.5% of its customers.

“Female car buyers really gravitated toward smaller, more fuel-efficient cars,” said Kristen Andersson, Senior Analyst at “It was the complete opposite for male buyers, who preferred either a fast, sporty vehicle or more heavy-duty vehicle, like a large truck or SUV.

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Indeed, the most masculine was the Porsche 911, men accounting for 88.2% of its customers, followed by the GMC Sierra, the Ford F-Series, the Chevrolet Corvette and the Chevrolet Silverado.

The Volvo S40 was the most popular offering among women in 2011, at 57.9%.  The Swedish compact  was followed by the Nissan Rogue, Volkswagen Eos, the VW Beetle and the Hyundai Tucson.