Public relations, women and cars

In Saudi Arabia, apparently women are allowed to sell and own cars, but not drive them.  Women behind the wheel is seen as too far on the road to emancipation.

Cars are symbolic of freedom (which is why our love affair cannot be broken as easily as the politicians and their taxation ideas believe) – but public relations practitioners still feel the need to separate even stereotype women and motoring.

Although a model drapped over the bonnet at launches is less common, when Volvo announced a car designed by women for women, the press lapped it up.  Small cars are generally seen as suitable for women, although we are allowed behind the wheel of sporty convertibles.

Driving School’s Maureen epitomises jokes about women drivers.  There are women only classes for vehicle maintenance and separate racing championships.  And of course, women-oriented car insurance – like the dreadful “Sheila’s Wheels” campaigns.   We even deride the “yummy mummy” behind the wheel of a “Chelsea tractor” 4×4.

The car industry remains very masculine – few designers, car dealers, senior managers , auto jounalists or senior PR practitioners are female.  Yet, women are a big market and key influencers. 

Women also have a long-history of driving – being among the first to drive at the start of the industry.  The Daily Mail in 1899 reported the rapid increase of “lady automobilists” such as Mrs Louise Bazalgette (who a year later as a 49 year old widow entered the 1,000 Mile Trial). 

Maybe it was that original emancipation that is behind the remaining stereotypes and reluctance to see women as good drivers.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

4 thoughts on “Public relations, women and cars”

  1. Well, I’m I’m a Class1 – or LGV ! as it’s now known – truck driver and I had the most amazing instructor who got me through my test in 2 and a half days. The male drivers I met on my trucking travels bent over backwards to help, and unlike other female truck drivers, I openly accepted any offer of help…particularly trying to rope and sheet a load of steel pipes at midnight in the pouring rain. But, some female truckers wouldn’t see the guys in their way – how very odd!

  2. How sexist the motor industry is. I have passed my Advanced Motorist Test, I took it in my MF Midget (but now drive a trustworthy family-suited Honda Civic). Can’t wait to get another convertible when the time is right.

    I bought my car on my own with my own money and negotiated a deal. My father-in-law was quite shocked, but to me it seemed as natural as going out and buying a pair of shoes.

    I do feel a car showroom is an intimidating scenario, on the whole, and would prefer to see more female saleswomen.

    I used to work with a female car reviewer, she had a great time testing out all the new vehicles.

    I would suggest it is time for men to step up a gear here!

  3. It is quite odd that compared to other retail there are so few women selling cars – those who do tend to be very successful. The industry has spent a fortune on improving showrooms – but we do need to get beyond this whole idea that somehow cars are alien to women. I found a great video on Pathe news of the October 1967 London Motor Show which talks about cars for the ladies (very Little Britain), which is now quite hilarious so maybe things have changed a bit. {Go to and enter 1968 in the search box}

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