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Top retailers championing women

With women feeling alienated from the car-buying journey, particularly the dealership experience, what is being done to turn this around?

Erin Baker

Words by: Erin Baker

Catherine King

Additional words by: Catherine King

Published on 12 March 2024 | 0 min read

Women make up just 20 per cent of the automotive workforce in the UK, and 10 per cent at board level, despite being 51 per cent of the population, 46 per cent of driving licence holders and 41 per cent of registered keepers of cars.
This significant gender gap in our industry understandably has a knock-on effect on female car buyers, who look at the brands, the products, the marketing and the shopping experience, and wonder how to buy a car when no one understands, empathises with, or even recognises them. People only feel empowered to do something when they see someone like them with power. Women feel disenfranchised, and mistrustful of the car-buying process; survey after survey, from our own No Driver Left Behind report at Auto Trader, to the Government’s latest National Travel Attitudes Study, supports this thesis. Retailers, whether large or small, independent or franchised, have a huge part to play in welcoming women to their forecourts, turning the conversation in their direction and opening up the product to them. At Auto Trader, we want to highlight and celebrate the retailers who are doing their bit to close the gender gap and create a gender-neutral buying space, whether that’s through hiring, retaining and promoting more women within their business, or revamping their marketing, social media, retail spaces and websites to include the language and emotions women use when relating to their cars. They are the crucial hand-holder for motorists: if retailers don’t get it right, the rest of us may as well pack up and go home. So let’s raise a glass to the following heroes.

Wink Cars

“Women’s backs are up because they’ve had bad experiences buying cars, it’s a great trade, we love it, it’s a great industry, we want to influence more women to get involved”

Wink Cars is a car dealership in the West Midlands co-founded in 2021 by Jodie Barber and Joanna Smith. Having a background in car sales Joanna had a vision for a female owned car dealership. After successfully selling the idea to friend Jodie, the pair set up the business at the back of an industrial estate with three cars, their savings, and a laptop. Since then, the business has been a huge success, moving to a 30-car pitch in Tipton and gaining media coverage following a win at the ’Empowering Women in Business’ awards. Jodie and Joanna’s passion for what they do is infectious; it’s clear they really care about customer experience, the automotive industry, and supporting local businesses. “Car sales shouldn’t be daunting” says Joanna. “People don’t want to be sold to: we don’t sell, we help, give advice and confidence”. This attracts a range of people from all demographics going out of their way to buy from Wink Cars, with an approximately 50:50 gender split of customers. Jodie and Joanna are a testament to the opportunities within the automotive industry for women, spotting a gap in the market for a trustworthy dealership selling low-value preloved cars. In their view “women’s backs are up because they’ve had bad experiences buying cars, it’s a great trade, we love it, it’s a great industry, we want to influence more women to get involved, women do great as part of it.”


“It’s a marathon not a sprint”

While Wink Cars is at the beginning of its journey, Ford’s largest franchise dealer group, TrustFord, is a long-established business that is proactively encouraging more women into the automotive industry. Julia Greenhough, TrustFord’s Marketing Director, highlights how the whole business revolves around the ethos of people buying from people. She encourages colleagues to make all communications friendly, natural, and approachable. This extends to TrustFord’s marketing, representing the stories of real people in consumer content and showcasing employees on the recruitment website. As a Silver member of the Automotive 30% Club, which signs its members up to committing that 30 per cent of their leaders will be female by 2030, TrustFord has a business-wide strategy to promote diversity and equality which includes redacting information on CVs when recruiting and working to reduce the gender pay gap, and offers flexible working and job sharing which it hopes will benefit employees with caring responsibilities. The business also changed its uniform in 2022, removing ties and creating a more relaxed dress code to put customers at ease, and now includes a branded hijab and maternity dress. Women technicians no longer wear small men’s trousers as they have clothes designed for especially them. These small changes have a big impact and although as Julia highlights "it’s a marathon not a sprint” the recognition TrustFord has received for its diversity and inclusion has helped to provide a benchmark within the industry that the business can build on.
15 Colleagues at TrustFord
Colleagues at TrustFord


“We are recruiting around transferable skills rather than motor trade experience”

Then there’s Carbase, a family-run business with seven stores in Somerset selling preloved cars and vans. Alex Jones, their COO, says that while the leadership team at Carbase has strong female representation (including one of their two company owners), they lack women in their apprentice intake. To address this, Alex says, “we are recruiting around transferable skills rather than motor trade experience”. As for consumer interactions, they are focused strongly on “the community we serve”, according to Alex. “Automotive is full of unconscious legacy bias. Our vehicle ads are written using a bespoke process to fully call out the features and explain the benefits through specification, safety, innovation, sustainability and design rather than expecting everyone to decipher codes.” In other words, they’ve ditched the jargon and used a human rather than AI to write them, focussing on the benefits they know matter to drivers. Carbase has also overhauled the colours on its website: “User experience testing called out an unconscious bias in automotive websites to darker, masculine colour palettes”, explains Alex. The next round is to introduce lifestyle-based search for customers’ next vehicles rather than make or model.
Talking to Wink Cars, TrustFord and CarBase, it’s clear loads of retailers get it, and more are catching the wave: they see and hear women, they understand the subtle differences in their research and buying approaches, and they know the key to a better customer experience is often more women on board at the company.
• We’d like to hear from more of you. Are you a retailer doing great things to narrow the gender gap? Are you a customer who’s been impressed by your dealer’s approach? Get in touch with us! Email with your story. • We’re excited to announce that we have launched the Auto Trader Woman of the Year Award as part of our annual Retailer Awards. We’ll be sharing more information about this soon.