Sexism Alive and Well in China

Wuling Hong Guang MINI EV

Hello again from Aim2D real time, 24/7 China Business, Marketing, Tech and Social Media News Portal of Bic Brands based in sunny Shunyi. Tuesdays we look at business, marketing, tech or social news in and around China. Friday is image gallery where we examine a place, topic or subject giving you greater insight, background to life in China, and of course, your Chinese consumer.

One would think, hope, that as we close in on 2023, brands would have moved on from gender stereotyping in marketing – right?

Seems not.

Although, having said that, racism and sexism in China seems to be something of a selective one way street. Encourages by their Gvt, Chinese suddenly develop an extreme case of “National Pride” whenever something appears that “hurts Chinese feelings.” This “selectivity” or “blind spot” came to the fore recently with a media release for a new electric vehicle, targeted to female drivers.

Now, essentially, there is nothing wrong with that. From a marketing perspective, brands do (and should) fine tune their conversations to niche sector audiences. Where it can go off the rails is when brands or agencies fall back on “stereotypes” to hawk the product.

China’s NEV Marketing to Female Drivers

Back in pre Covid times – did those days REALLY ever exist or were they just more social media hype? – Aim2D noted that as a rough – standing on a corner counting – survey, it seemed the number of female drivers on the road was increasing. Many more females were driving EV than men. (we mean driving EV cars, not driving men!)

End 2021 China had 440 million drivers, female drivers increased from 70 million in 2014 to 162 million in 2021.

Lately it seems the industry has drawn the same conclusion and there is a fierce battle raging on this new, lucrative frontier. Intense to the point where some makers are now offering “exclusive for -women” models. And therein lies the issue.

Great Wall Motors EV brand Ora launched the Ballet Cat, designed from the ground up to appeal to female drivers.

Read article: More women driving in China. Some firms have lots to learn

When we first read about this we were excited. Well, curious. However, seeing the Ora our expectations were severely tempered. Stick it next to a Vee Dub Beetle – you’d be hard pressed to spot the difference. So much for; “from the ground up.” Seemed more like a desperate act of copy cat to us.

And that name? A little ostentatious perhaps? Seems it is more likely to be pronounced along the lines of a certain India luggage and accessory brand. But it gets worse as we read on.

Great Wall allegedly consulted with females to better understand what women wanted in a car. However, as we read further, we began to feel uncomfortable. We doubted that assertion.

Many of the touted so called special features designed with women in mind, relied on and indeed, perpetuated the myths that females are inferior drivers, empty headed, shallow and vein.

Now, maybe a case could be made that a generation back, women did pay more attention to their appearance than men. We doubt if that is true today. Especially in China. There is data to back that up.

Latest sales stats show males outspend females with online cosmetic purchases and account for almost half the customers at spas, beauty stores and cosmetic surgery.

There was a definite sexist feel, a nasty, undercurrent vibe regarding the inferiority of women drivers and a stereotypical negative view of women generally.

However, the article improved as it developed. We were heartened to read some of the feed back the writers collected from Chinese women:

they validate negative stereotypes of women. For example, the Lady Driving Mode hints at a lack of skill, the selfie camera suggests women are vain, some claimed.

A 29-year-old woman in Beijing said: “That’s all gimmicks. Most of the configurations the vehicle featured are equipped in every vehicle and the Ballet Cat have just named them another way.”

You do not get your money’s worth.Thinking about the car’s performance indicators. Purchasing the Ballet Cat is like paying stupid tax.

Wei Ying, 40in Shenzhen, plans to buy a vehicle this year but would not buy the Ballet Cat after hearing the car’s marketing points.

I care about vehicle performance, not functions that suggest I am a bad driver.

Of course, these are just a few random comments, and who’s to say the original sources are not selective?

However it does seem to suggest that Chinese women drivers are more interested in performance (and we might guess, safety?) than whether the steering wheel matches their nail polish. Time will tell.
Maybe the company should consider rebranding to: Alley Cat~ Meow!

In other China EV News:

Luxury car manufacturer Porsche said that half its owners in China are women. Females account for 62% of the Macan SUV.

China exported 362,200 NEVs in the first half, more than double from the previous year. Western European countries reached 122,700 autos, 34% whilst Southeast Asia imported 58,400 units, or 16% of total exports.

China has elected to extend the tax rebate on NEV’s which was originally slated to finish end of 2022. This should be a shot in the arm for the EV industry and China’s goal of reducing ICE engines on the roads.

Stellantis’s China Woes

Now, afore ye asketh, Stellantis was formed just over a year ago by a merger between French automaker PSA and Fiat Chrysler.  According to media at the time, it aimed to breath new life into the partners struggling models and become the world’s 4th largest automaker. If you need more background, try: What is Stellantis? 

Clearly, the “front” of the battle ground is China, this is where winning is crucial. Sadly for Stellantis, which has several joint ventures (JV) in China, it has not gone so well.

China Gvt meantime has been loosening the restrictions on foreign brands holdings in JV’s.

Many global companies have taken advantage of this to either take 100% or increase their holdings to become majority shareholders. We talked about that here with our Lady M story:

In an attempt to become more efficient, productive, relevant and therefore more profitable in China, Stelantis began reviewing its relationships with its Chinese partners. Things began badly early this year when GAC gagged at Stelantis bid to take a 75% share of their partnership.

If media reports today are to be believed, the ground has become even more frosty as GAC are contesting Stelantis plans to dissolve the JV that produces Jeep vehicles for the Chinese market. This promises to be an ongoing saga.

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