Everything Women Always Wanted to Know about Cars; But Didn't Know Who to Ask

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9780385476218: Everything Women Always Wanted to Know about Cars; But Didn't Know Who to Ask
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"I remember everything about the day I bought my first car. The pride, the awe at the financial responsibility, the way I stroked the paintwork...I loved that car with an intensity that still persists, years later. And even after all the fancy cars I've driven since then, if you gave me half a chance -- if they still made that car -- I'd buy it again."

Lesley Hazleton remembers that day so clearly because while men take for granted the independence that cars bring, women do not. For women, a car means freedom. It means control over their own lives. It means, really, far more to women than it does for most men. Yet for years, automakers didn't consider women when they designed cars. As far as they were concerned, women were in the bleachers and men were in the grandstands.

Not anymore.

Lesley Hazleton talked to 150 women all over America to find out what they really thought about cars. What she discovered will make you laugh and it will make you think. This book is as much about the romance of owning a car (and romance inside a car) as it is about antilock brakes and air bags. More than a car manual (though it's filled with how-to advice on taking care of your car), it will enable you to negotiate for the best deal, teach you how to test-drive, help you decide whether to buy or lease, explain safety features and security issues, and guide you to know your car as much as you love it. With lively anecdotes, charts, and illustrations, Everything Women Always Wanted to Know About Cars, But Didn't Know Who to Ask is revealing, insightful, and extremely informative.

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About the Author:

Lesley Hazleton is a member of the International Motor Press Association, a graduate of the Skip Barber Racing School, and a survivor of a hands-on apprenticeship in mechanics. She is a contributing editor of Self and has also written for the New York Times, Esquire, Time, and USA Today. She often appears as the automotive expert on "Good Morning America" and other national television programs. She lives on a houseboat in Seattle.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

I remember everything about the day I bought my firstcar. The pride, the awe at the financial responsibility, the way I stroked the paintwork. It was the cheapest car on the market -- a CitroÙn 2CV -- and I loved that car with an intensity that still persists, years later. It was simple, it was basic, and it always, always worked. And even after all the fancy cars I've driven since then, if you gave me half a chance -- and if they still made that car -- I'd buy it again.

I remember that day so clearly because while men take for granted the independence that cars bring, women do not. Our own car means freedom. It means control of our own lives. It means, in short, far more to us than it does to most men.

Yet for years, automakers thought of women as the poor relations of the car world. We were a "niche market," not half the population. So far as they were concerned, women were in the bleachers, men in the grandstands.

Not anymore.

Women now buy nearly half the cars in the United States (48 percent, to be precise). That's close to sixteen million cars a year, eight million of them new and eight million used. So what we think about cars and what we know about them is suddenly of prime importance. In Detroit, in Japan, in Europe, automakers are trying to figure out "what women want."

They could try listening.

Women talking about cars is something else altogether. Men may talk about them more, but women have a lot more fun doing it.

I discovered just how much fun when I ran a series of focus groups in six states and one Canadian province, with a total of 150 women of all ages, incomes, and ethnic backgrounds. Some drove spanking new cars, some lovingly kept-up vintage cars, some beat-up old clunkers. Often, the smaller and older the car, the more women were attached to it.

These women were dynamite. They were both savvy and frustrated, forthright and funny.

Each group began with the questionnaire reprinted on page 277, and lasted up to three hours. And those three hours were in turn riotous and intimate, humorous and touching, raucous and revealing. They were evenings of shared memories, intimacies, calamities, insults, high points, low points, dreams, fantasies, and information. We talked sex, relationships, our lives, and yet we were still talking cars.

I have spent hours on end talking with men about cars since I became an automotive journalist in the late eighties, but I have never had such fun doing it as in these groups. As a result, this book was written by 151 women -- myself, and the 150 women in the focus groups, who speak in direct quotes throughout these pages.

Women talk differently about cars than men. Since we come newer to cars -- we've only started buying cars in proportion to our numbers in the last two decades -- we come without all the clutter of what we're supposed to say about them. We come with requirements of quality that apparently never occurred to men until women started demanding them. We come with fresh eyes and fresh hearts.

Here are the main differences. They don't apply to all women or to all men, of course, but they do represent a very distinct trend.
Women
see cars as an integral part of their lives
focus on reliability
are honest and forthright when they talk about cars
know more about cars than they think
are serious about cars but also have a sense of humor about them
are more pragmatic about cars
think of cars in terms of a relationship (which might be why they have a sense of humor about them)
talk cars by their experience in them: what happened in and around them, people and places
take great pride in ownership
see cars as symbols of freedom and independence

Men
see cars as machines
focus on power
feel they have to pretend to know all about cars
know less about cars than they think
are too serious about cars, can't allow themselves to be funny about them
are more image-conscious
think of cars more in terms of a romance (which might be why they have no sense of humor about them)
talk cars by the numbers: cylinders, horsepower, 0-60 mph, all that tech talk
tend to take ownership for granted
tend to see cars as status symbols
Certain words surfaced time and again in the groups: reliability
freedom
independence
relationship
security

These words are the key to what women want from cars, so we'll take a closer look at them in this first part of the book.

In the second part, we'll deal with buying cars -- threading the maze of making the choice, negotiating, and being a smart buyer.

The third part gets on the road, looking at driving, breakdown, safety, and security.

The fourth part gets into the fun of cars, both serious and frivolous.

And the fifth part gets under the hood, looking at how cars work, and removing the totally unnecessary veil of mystery about these simple mechanical creatures.

I didn't grow up knowing about cars. I remember what it was like to open up the hood and be frustrated because I didn't have the faintest idea what I was looking at. I knew next to nothing about cars at the time; I only knew I liked to drive them. I could check the oil and, if I really had to, maybe change a tire, though I tended to wait for a man to come along and do that for me. But if anything went really wrong, I was at a total loss.  And dealers rubbed their hands in delight when they saw me walking into a showroom.

So I asked a lot of dumb questions and got good answers. I apprenticed myself to a mechanic and found out how engines work. I hung out in Detroit and listened and observed. And when I wrote about cars, I had a different take on them than my male peers.

I wrote about them, without even intending to, from a woman's point of view. That is, I was more interested in the feel of a car than in the numbers, in the experience of driving it than in its performance on paper.  And I saw an acquaintance with the hardware as a matter of self-respect -- it seemed a good idea that I understand this thing I depended on and drove every day -- and also as self-defense against breakdown or emergency.

Why a woman's book of cars?

Because we do think differently about cars than men.

Because we place greater stress on reliability, safety, and security.

Because we now have the money and the market clout to make automakers listen.

Because women are tired of being talked down to about cars. Tired of having our concerns labeled "women's concerns" and considered marginal.  Tired of the pointless male obsession with numbers instead of quality.

We've had enough of mechanics who assume we're idiots. Enough of all the old stale myths about women drivers. Enough of being condescended to and ripped off by dealers. Enough of being treated like children just because the subject is a machine that makes noise, goes fast, and has grease in it.

Knowledge is power. This book lays it on the line, clearly and honestly.

Mysteries will be revealed, secrets laid bare.

Thinking about cars, buying them, driving them, understanding them, caring for them: It's all here, in plain language.

Enjoy!

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