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Top cars: men vs. women

When it comes to cars, it's easy to figure out what men are after. It's women who are complicated.

June 14, 2005; Posted: 4:03 p.m. EDT (2003 GMT)

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNN/Money staff writer


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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - A look at marketing data showing which cars men prefer and which ones women like revealed something I'd long suspected.

While men may, indeed, be from Mars, women are from someplace much more complex and difficult to figure out. Maybe Boston.

The figures, supplied by NOP World, a market research firm, show specific car models and an index number representing how many men -- or women -- intend to buy that car and no other compared to the percentage of their gender-mates who intend to buy the average car.

In other words, these are cars that seem to sell most disproportionately to just one sex or the other.

The most striking thing about NOP's data is how easy it is to figure out what guys want.

The Porsche 911 -- the most overwhelmingly male passenger car -- has an "Index Male to Total" of 214.3, for example. That's more than double the average. The car's "Index Female to Total," on the other hand, is just 14.3.

It's surprising the 911 doesn't grow hair on its hood and eat Krispy Kreme for breakfast.

Other cars at the top of the masculinity dial include the exotic Ford GT supercar, Maserati Spyder, Jaguar XK8 sports car and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

You get the idea: If it's very fast, awfully fast, terribly fast or way, way too fast, guys like it. Also, they tend to be expensive.

The one common trait among cars that women like is that they are not expensive.

The most womanly car, with a "Female" index of 200, is the yet-unreleased Pontiac G6 convertible. (You go, Oprah! Plus, it's a convertible.)

Actually, the G6 has a wide lead in the "girl car" category. The closest other passenger cars are the Suzuki Forenza with an index of 150 and the Volkswagen New Beetle with an index of 147.6.

How do women decide which cars to buy?

"If you picture a fraction with cost as the denominator then, as the numerator, you have things like reliability, performance..." said Doug Scott, NOP World's automotive analyst.

He went on with a long list of factors.

To sum it up, women add up the good things, subtract the bad things, then compare the result with the cost of the car. Then they think carefully about the result.

Men, it seems, just add stuff up then wonder if they can afford it without having to switch to domestic beer.

If a typical male mind -- take mine, since I'm evidently not doing much with it -- were expanded to the size of the United States of America, that portion of the mind dedicated to responding to the word "enough" would be the size of a bumper pool table in a New Jersey bar.

That portion of the brain dedicated to responding to the word "more," on the other hand, would occupy everything west of the Rockies, including Hawaii and the territories of American Samoa and Guam.

That is why the Mustang GT has four headlights. Not because men want more headlights, but because those two extra headlights -- Ford calls them "fog lights" but, really, they're headlights -- are only available on the V8-powered Mustang GT.

The male driver of a V6-powered Mustang, with its 210-horsepower engine, clearly has "enough" power. Probably more than enough.

But when stopped at a red light next to a four-lighted 300-horsepower Mustang GT it is immediately obvious to everyone that the other driver has "more."

This is the same reason that Dodge has greatly increased the size of the "Hemi" badge on its cars for the 2006 model year. The larger badge makes it very easy to see, at some distance, who has "more."

Dodge has stated outright that it designs and markets cars for men. So it has given us the Dodge Magnum, a muscle-car station wagon. It has also given us the new Dodge Charger, a muscle-car family sedan with four doors, roomy back seats and a nice trunk.

Clever, those Dodge boys. Clearly, they understand that, even though they are marketing cars to men, most men don't just go out and buy cars on their own. They still have to get the thumbs-up from someone else.

Women. Always making stuff complicated.

Top 10 cars for men

1. Porsche 911 coupe, $70,095 - $193,765

2. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, $28,504 - $35,274

3. Ford GT, $143,345

4. Volkswagen Phaeton, $68,905 - $104,455

5. BMW 6-series convertible, $76,900

6. Jaguar XK8 coupe, $69,830

7. Maserati Spyder, $92,302 - $96,465

8. Mercedes CL, $96,720 - $132,320

9. BMW 6-series coupe, $69,900

10. Porsche 911 convertible, $79,895 - $141,995

Top 10 cars for women

1. Pontiac G6 convertible, (Not yet available)

2. Suzuki Forenza, $13,994 - $18,494

3. Volkswagen New Beetle convertible, $22,940 - $27,100

4. Volkswagen New Beetle, $17,185 - $27,100

5. Pontiac Sunfire coupe, $11,460 - $15,770

6. Volvo XC70, $36,080

7. Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible, $25,744 - $31,544

8. Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible, $20,045 - $29,120

9. Kia Rio sedan, $10,535 - $13,065

10. Kia Optima, $16,585 - $20,585

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