The second installment of Heels & Wheels recently took place in the land of my childhood, San Diego, CA. Designed by Christine Overstreet, President and CEO of Overstreet Events & PR, the purpose of the ride and drive is for women in the automotive industry to come together to talk shop. Over 40 female journalists, auto executives, and manufacturer representatives attended the second annual event which was held at the lush resort Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa (www.estancialajolla.com).
Similar to last year, the conference provided journalists with the opportunity to get behind the wheel of vehicles provided by sponsoring partners Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Dodge, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi and VW. This time however, before the multiple test drive opportunities began, Heels & Wheels kicked off with a reception hosted by Kelly Blue Book to educate attendees on key insights regarding the female automotive consumer such as:
- Women tend to prefer technology equipment that improves safety. I agree.
- For female consumers, a GPS/Navigation system is not as important as it is for males. I highly disagree. I love my Nav and so do all of my girlfriends. Actually, it’s the first comfort feature I look for in a vehicle.
- Both genders feel that an infotainment system is not an extremely important consideration for their next vehicle purchases, primarily because they are too costly. I somewhat agree. They are actually becoming outdated because of the onslaught of smartphones and tablets.
- Overall, regardless of gender, consumers are pretty savvy about most of the technology now available as optional vehicle equipment. Agreed.
We finished off the first day with a delicious dinner and a presentation by the Heels & Wheels project management team where we were given some interesting stats, including:
- Women now control more than $13 trillion in personal wealth, compared to $6.5 trillion in 1995.
- The average American woman is expected to earn more than the average American male by 2028. Well, I’ll believe it when that day comes.
- Women make more than 80% of all consumer purchases (including cars and technology).
- Over the next decade, women will control two thirds of consumer wealth in the U.S.
- Women have the highest growth rate in two of the fastest growing segments in the automotive field– small cars and green cars.
- Each month 500,000 women are in-market for a car purchase within a 1-3 month window.
Day 2 – The Cars!
Heels & Wheels is centered around the female automotive journalists in attendance so they can experience various auto brands with the ability of comparing them side by side. Because there are certain things that appeal most to the female driver including cargo space, rear passenger leg room, safety features, compartments, etc. The vehicle models on hand this year were Buick’s Verano, Cadillac’s XTS, Dodge’s Dart, Hyundai’s Azera, Jaguar’s XJL, Kia’s Sorento SX, Range Rover’s Evoque, the Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi’s Outlander GT and VW’s Jetta GLI.
Although I didn’t have the opportunity to drive all of the cars, my personal favorites were:
- The Range Rover Evoque with its smooth handling and quirky exterior.
- The Jaguar XJL because of its new sexy body and luxurious features that included built in front seat massagers for both the driver and passenger.
- The surprisingly roomy and quite stylish Chrysler 200 Convertible which was a joy to drive – top down of course – through Torrey Pines’ hilly terrain.
- The Hyundai Azera which I actually regret not purchasing when I was in the market a few years ago after briefly taking it out for a spin through the University of California San Diego’s campus.
Certain brands do a better job than others to play on female emotions. Fiat is one of them and I wish an Abarth was present. Infiniti and Nissan have done superior jobs! I don’t even think about Mitsubishi, Buick or Mazda when it comes to car shopping.
Other event highlights included a breakfast discussion with LaShirl Turner, Head of Advance Color and Materials at Chrysler, who informed us that there’s an entire process that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to designing the look and feel of a vehicle. Next up was a panel discussion that featured the Location General Manager of CarMax Irvine, CA Audrey Larsh, one of just a handful of women in the mostly male dominated dealership world. Last but not least was a wine tasting and pairing hosted by Buick, where I discovered The Show’s 2010 Malbec from Mendoza Argentina, a tasty new addition to add to my aspiring wine collection.
Overall us girls had a great time driving, laughing, eating and chatting. Already I’m looking forward to 2013. For more information on Heels & Wheels, please visit www.heels-and-wheels.com.