Despite the fact that women buy 50 percent of the cars sold each year and influence 80 percent of the purchasing decisions, many women still feel ignorant and apprehensive when dealing with auto sales and service people.
Enter AskPatty.com, a Web site that debuted in June where women can ask questions and receive advice from other women about buying and maintaining cars and tires.
``Patty'' is a fictional composite character representing women consumers, and the Web site is touted as ``a safe, online place to share and discuss their car buying experiences.''
AskPatty.com, which began as a blog in May, is run by President Jody DeVere and an advisory panel of female automotive experts who hold leadership positions in the automotive industry. The panel is headed by former professional NASCAR driver Deborah Renshaw.
The Web site allows visitors to send questions to the panel regarding an array of topics, from how to deal with car salesmen to how to change a flat tire. So far the Web site has averaged more than 50 questions a month.
The Web site also provides an auto dealer search database, articles on automotive-related topics, educational podcasts by experts and a blog where women can comment on auto-related subjects.
The Web site company also provides certification to car dealerships, designating them as ``women friendly.'' About 25 car dealerships are undergoing certification, which allows the dealerships to ``harness the buying power of women,'' according to the company.
Women and men approach a purchase from different perspectives, according to a company spokesperson. While men usually focus on getting the best deal, women prefer to develop a trust relationship with the salesperson and are even willing to pay more at a dealership they trust.
An AskPatty.com certified dealer is trained by the company on how to create a safe and comfortable environment to attract, sell and retain loyal women consumers, the company said.
The dealerships pay certification and training fees for the designation, which includes monthly training on how to sell to women, use of the AskPatty.com logo in marketing materials and a listing on the Web site search engine as a certified dealer.
While certification currently is geared for car dealerships, a spokesperson said the company might consider expanding the program in the future to include tire and repair shops.