Around the world, building and designing cars remains a male-dominated business, and many companies live by an old axiom that women will buy a man's car but men won't buy a woman's car. While a few companies have attempted to bend that rule, only Honda has chosen to embrace it with the Honda Fit She's -- the only model built by an automaker today aimed exclusively at women. Hope you like pink, ladies.
There's a long and embarrassing history of automakers attempting to lure women with ladies-only models. At the turn of the 20th century, electric cars were marketed to wives with the pitch that their lack of hand-crank starting would avoid broken shoulders and/or death. In 1955, Chrysler made a bid for feminine attention with the Dodge LaFemme -- which came in a two-tone pink-and-white paint scheme, along with a storage place for the matching purse and rain hat. Lest you think modern executives learned from errors of the past, in 2000 Ford showed off a concept Windstar minivan developed with Maytag featuring a compact washer/dryer, microwave and vacuum in the rear hatch, because why would a soccer mom ever want to be parted from her appliances?
As women have grown to buy more cars in recent decades -- accounting for about one-third of car shoppers in the United States -- such attempts have given way to more savvy marketing. But in Japan, the gender divide remains more stark; half of all working-age women stay out of the workforce due to more stringent societal pressure to choose homemaking over careers, a major reason Japan's economy has been stuck in a rut for decades. But there's a cohort of younger Japanese women putting work first, and in a weak market Honda sees an opening.
Launched this summer, the Honda Fit She's designers say they wanted to take a regular Fit subcompact and make it in their words "adult cute." That means lots of pink: Pink stitching in the seats and steering wheel and floor mats, matched by pink metallic bezels around the shifter and displays. There's also a few extra shades of pink in the special She's badge, spelled with a heart for an apostrophe. If pink isn't a customer's style, Japanese buyers can also select a Fit She's in shades of brown and white that a Honda executive told the Yomuri Shinbun newspaper match the color of eyeshadow.
To Honda's credit, the Fit She's beauty treatment isn't just skin deep. It also comes with special windshield glass that cuts 99 percent of ultraviolet rays and a "Plasmacluster" air conditioning system that Honda claims can improve a driver's skin quality, all aimed at stopping those wrinkles that turn adult cute into just adult. With a starting price of $17,500, the Fit She's got an attractive price for a home-market Japanese car -- but automakers wouldn't need special editions if taking advice from women wasn't such a noteworthy event.