Why women are outracing men in the battle of wheels

Big cars no longer exclusive toys for big boys as girls join race for acquisition of biggest and meanest machines

For as long as money has existed, men have wielded it and with it power, influence and status.

Unless deliberately concealed, wealth is generally expressed though lavish spending. The warmer the pockets, the nicer the things you can have: posh houses, boats, planes and of course, imposing cars.

All collectively colloquially and aptly named Big Boys Toys. It has always been a man’s world and to date, men continue to control most of the globe’s wealth.  But when it specifically comes to cars, it’s not quite business as usual.

Over the past few decades, with a warlike global mobilisation of resources, women have not only caught up with the menfolk but are now leaving them in the dust. Literally.

Historically, women have always been intimately connected to cars. But always as an accompaniment for men’s pleasure like the dolled up beauties at motorshows meant to entice a hapless guy into buying a car that would enable him to get a girl like her. Very simplistic, and possibly offensive, but nonetheless, very effective.

However, the tables have turned and now women are at the wheel, driving the most imposing machines, while increasingly, men are driving the ordinary cars.

But according to industry insider, Simba Colt communications manager, Angel Katusia, this is not necessarily true.

“Personally, I drive a small car, because I’d rather save that money and invest in property or something else. I would say that it’s an individual choice regardless of gender, guided by socio-economic factors,”she says.

Dr Gidraph Wairire, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Nairobi, says the economic background of an individual determines the choice of vehicle.

“When someone has come from a humble background, they will often do what it takes to announce their arrival to a higher strata in society and one of the ways people do this, regardless of gender, is by the cars they drive,” says Wairire.

He cites the influence of social networks, the effect of women liberation, the desire for self-fulfillment and projection of power as some of the reasons more and more women are driving bigger and bigger cars.

While stereotypes are unscientific, Wairire argues that a peculiarity of stereotypes is that humans tend to make them true and give them life.

“For example the stereotype that a Luo man cannot drive a small car, hence opt for a Mercedes or BMW while a Kikuyu man will opt for a humbler and more efficient Toyota Probox. These are stereotypes but if you actually went out and observed the traffic, you’d find this to be true,” says Wairire.

While that explains why women are buying bigger cars, there’s also the question of why men are opting for smaller cars. A motoring journalist explains: “A 2018 hatchback with all the technological bells and whistles will be faster, more driveable and more efficient than any car from the 90s.

When it comes to power, the cars may be getting smaller but they’re getting more powerful especially because of forced induction advancements.  A modern four cylinder 2.0 litre turbocharged engine churns out as much as 400 horsepower. That was unthinkable in the 90s where you were pushing the limits at 120 horsepower for the same capacity.”

Among car enthusiasts as well, more and more women are into fast cars and it’s not unusual for a working class mid-20s woman to drive a manual turbocharged car like the Mitsubishi Evo and then change into stilettos when she gets where she’s going. It’s all down to the changing times.

There’s been a drastic shift in the driving patterns of the genders, but that’s been alongside drastic technological advancements in motoring and gender equality initiatives.

As recently as last month, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where you couldn’t drive if you were a woman.

NOTE: Efforts by the writer to obtain statistics from NTSA as well as from dealerships were not fruitful.

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