Chicago Auto Show: What women want

Chicago Auto Show: What women want

What a woman wants, a man can appreciate

It really shouldn’t surprise you that automakers are setting their sights on the most influential buyers. They purchase more than 60 percent of the new cars each year, and they directly or indirectly account for 8 out 10 purchasing decisions. What may surprise you is who this new influencer is: Women.

While automakers may not be doing the hard-sell on female friendly features in new vehicles, they are definitely looking at little details that might make her life a little easier. The kicker is: What makes her life easier, helps him, too. So, as you are wandering through the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, be sure to check out some of my favorite features making the rounds for 2013 …

Let it slide

One of the coolest things I’ve seen this year is the standard tilt-and-slide second-row seat in the all new 2013 Infiniti JX  (featured photo above) and sibling 2013 Nissan Pathfinder. This innovative feature allows the second row to slide forward and backward 5-1/2 inches, and with a slight tilt, it gives easy access to the third row – with a child seat installed in the second row. This is key for the family that might have two car-seats installed and still need that third row for extra passengers. The tilt-and-slide operation is easy to do with one hand, and children as well as small adults will be able to climb in the back easily.

Look, Mom, no hands!

At this point we’ve all heard of keyless entry and hands-free calling, but Ford takes going hands-free to a whole new level. On the all-new 2013 Escape, the automaker introduced a power liftgate with a touchless open. All you have to do is kick your foot underneath the tailgate, and voila! Whether you’re carrying groceries, office supplies or more precious cargo, you never have to lift a finger, literally, to get the back door open. This feature is available beginning with the mid-level SEL model, and a price tag that tops $30K.

Under-seat storage in the Dodge Dart.

Under-seat storage in the Dodge Dart.

Now you see it, now you don’t

From iPads to iPasses to wallets to spare change, we all haul stuff around in our vehicles that we’d rather not let passersby see when we park. Sometimes, the trunk isn’t the most convenient storage space, and the center console might not be big enough. Besides, aren’t those the obvious places someone would look if they were breaking into your car? That’s why I love the super-secret spy storage found in Chrysler Group products. Stow ‘n Go offers a very usable 6.14 cubic-feet of in-floor cargo space in both the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Chrysler Town and Country. This is perfect for larger items like a big purse, gym bag or smaller sporting equipment. Dodge Dart and Dodge Journey offer under-seat-cushion Flip ‘n Stow storage, which easily fits a small purse, iPad or wallet.

We flit, we float … we stow

One of the perpetual questions I try to answer when driving a new car is: Where do I put my purse? On the passenger seat might attract a smash-and-grabber. On the floor of the front passenger seat, leaves less space for, well, the front passenger. The back seat or rear floor makes it inconvenient for me to do a quick reach for gum or lip gloss. Thus, the floating center stack on the Volvo and Prius lineups is a favorite. Not only does it look futuristic and sleek, but it provides the perfect place to stow my small- or medium-sized purse. Which means it will also fit a man’s wallet and cell phone.

Now that’s hot

We are an on-the-go society. And, many of us live and die by our cell phones and laptops and iPads. Streaming movies, Tweeting, texting, divulging status play-by-plays on Facebook and checking in on FourSquare have become an addition. So, what if your passengers could do all this over wifi provided by your car? Sure 3G works fine, but imagine how much you’ll save on your data plans if you could just use wifi instead. Chrysler Uconnect and Audi connect both offer hotspot technology that does not require any additional cell cards or software. However, you will have to opt for some up-level options and pay a wifi subscription fee.

Gucci seatbelts and badging in the Fiat 500.

Gucci seatbelts and badging in the Fiat 500.

Drive by design

Whether you like it or not, your car says a lot about who you are. Are you looking for flash-and-dash or practicality? Will any color do, or do you want to customize? Do you opt for generic, or is it name brand all the way? Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of automakers who offer aftermarket customization (a-la-Scion). And we’ve seen designer partnerships between automakers and high-end brands (a-la-Bvlgari and Cadillac). But my current fave is the Fiat-Gucci collaboration. Not only because those red-and-green seatbelts look awesome, but also because it’s affordable. Base price for the Gucci model is $23,750, and it comes standard with an automatic transmission, and estimated 38 mpg on the highway and Gucci badging galore.

Tickled Techno Pink

Color is important on a car, and classic paints like Hemi Orange or Racing Green never go out of style. But there is a new crop of eye-popping colors that range from clever to crazy, and they are sure to add panache – and maybe just a bit of funk – to your ride. Some of my favorite colors for 2013 include: Techno Pink on the Chevrolet Spark, Clear Water Blue Metallic on the Mazda2, Yellow Blaze on the Ford Fiesta, Marathon Blue on the Hyundai Veloster and Alien on the Kia Soul.

** Note: This article appears in the Chicago Auto Show guide that is handed out at the show. Be sure to look for it if you get your hands on the hard copy! 


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  • From the first few entries, the primary thing a woman wants is an SUV at least the size of a Ford Explorer. I guess a woman is not yet on the level of an ElDorado National Bus with WiFi (just reported to be on the streets in the western suburbs). But, basically, SUVs aren't for rock climbing.

    You don't get down to minivans until the third paragraph, and, except for Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda, apparently the manufacturers don't either.

    And there used to be the Ralph Lauren Lincoln Mark whatever.

    But I guess one distinction between men and women is that men basically only need enough storage space for the registration, insurance card, tire hazard warranty plan (probably in the tire store's computer, anyway), punch card for a free oil change or car wash after so many punches, tire pressure gauge (built into new cars' wheels), and a few replacement lamps (until the car has only LEDs). Can still fit that in the glove compartment. My parenthetical remarks indicate that male drivers of new cars need even less storage.

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