Time was when the only place you would find a woman at a motor show was trailed over the bonnet of the latest sports car wearing not very much. Those days are – mostly – gone.
There are even occasional hints that a woman might make it into Formula 1, as something other than an interviewer or ornamental groupie. Such supposed progress, however, neglects the fact that Britain used to produce some rather good women rally drivers; it also fails to recognise that, in the US and most of Europe, half of all new cars are bought by women.
Continuing car machismo was the point eloquently made in a recent letter to this newspaper. Yvonne Ruge expressed disappointment that our report on the Geneva motor show had, in her words, “been inspired only by the motorised toys that men like to impress each other with”. She suggested that, for women, “all-round practicality” was a priority, with “showing off coming way down the list”. I could not agree more – though I find the multiple “cup-holders” favoured by American designers of “moms’ cars” tiresome.
I am more interested in the way a car drives (light steering, good road-holding); ease of getting in and out (including in a skirt); dashboard controls that you can reach and do not require a pilot’s licence to comprehend, and enough space for guidebooks and water bottles. Oh, yes, and I don’t want it to look like a missile or take up too much room on the road.
It’s still astounding to me that all this is so hard to find in one car. Perhaps with a woman (Mary Barra) now in the driving seat at General Motors, and more female car designers, at least in France, we will start to see less showing off and more flair allied to common sense.