Michelle Breffitt drives the Women Drive Electric UK Facebook Group, along with George Thurman. Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, we have invited Michelle, who is an EVA England member as well, to share her experience and her journey with us.
In her first article written on behalf of the Women Drive Electric UK Facebook Group, Michelle talks about her journey working as a female in the automotive industry, how this led her to buy an EV, why women are so often disengaged with the car buying process and how a small community of female drivers are helping each other to make the switch.
My first love of EV’s came completely by surprise. As a pragmatic, diesel loving, ex-van driving, company car user drawn to convertibles, I would never have been one of the first hauled into an EV focus group.
As I began my company car driving career in a Vauxhall Sales Team (naturally allocated Corsa after Corsa), I had never even heard of International Women’s Day and didn’t really think to compare my experience to others. So when Vauxhall released the New Tigra Coupe in 2004, which none of the male salesmen wanted to drive, it opened my eyes as I absolutely loved this little car: it was clever, cute and crazy all at the same time (just like me!)
Then in 2016, just as my new job-for-life as a mummy had made practicality my priority, my workplace started selling Kia and so, I joined the SUV club with a Kia Sportage Diesel Auto – I know don’t hold it against me.
In 2019, as I was due to change cars, the New Kia e-Niro was making headlines winning the prestigious What Car? Car of the Year Award. It was practical, the contract hire price was pretty close to the Kia Sportage one, and I liked the idea of having some new technology. Plus, with cheap company car tax and the ability to charge at work, it was a done deal – I didn’t even need a test drive!
Then *cue claps of thunder* my work situation unfortunately changed and so I needed to buy a car as a private person for the first time. That week, I walked boldly into a BMW dealership and test drove an i3S. After 20 years working in Automotive, this one week of entangled feelings inside a showroom, and of endless hours of online research, completely challenged all I knew about the car buying experience, especially from a woman’s perspective.
While we see lots of real steps being taken to engage more female customers through creating a welcoming and inclusive environment and employing more women and promoting them into leadership roles, there is still much more ground to make up. Many women are disengaged with the actual car buying process, preferring to leave it to their male partner or asking their dad to tag along, yet research shows that women can influence 85% of the final decision to buy a car. Coupled with being half the market themselves, female drivers are crucial to automotive organisations.
International Women’s Day 2023 will yet again see a flurry of photos and celebrations of female team members throughout the Automotive world. While marketing departments are working hard against the old stereotypes of a ‘slimy salesman’ or a service advisor inflating an invoice because a woman ‘won’t know about cars’, the preconceptions of some female buyers are still going strong today even though the reality is often very different.
A few years ago, I was part of a workshop group of aspiring female content creators and journalists and Autotrader shared with us research that had found that women often use a different vocabulary to men, much more emotive, when describing the feel, the safety aspect and even the drive of a car, likely resulting in marketing communications from manufacturers not effectively reaching the female audience.
It was in this workshop where George and I first met. Being an EV driver myself she asked me to help with the Women Drive Electric UK Facebook group, which she had set up in September 2019.
We wanted it to be a forum where it is safe to ask questions without anyone feeling intimated or out of their depth, for women who already own an EV, are in the process of ordering or who have yet to make the switch.
It’s a lovely community, with members asking questions as well as sharing their journeys and car pictures. Recently, one lady commented on how welcome she’d felt on the group as she had been sharing updates with us from the time she’s ordered her new EV to the day she received it. We had all shared her excitement and happiness. That’s what buying a car should be like – happy and exciting – not confusing or making us feel insecure, or worse giving us imposter syndrome. One member shared with us that a salesman had suggested she should ‘come back with her husband’. Suffice to say that she swiftly left, and that brand has now been tainted in her mind forever.
Learning something new is one of the great benefits of the WDE group. Everyone is helpful and has suggestions on how a car drives or how to use a feature, tips on how to ‘wild-charge’ or maybe recommendations for a charging app or an energy provider. We have also connected female buyers with female car sales executives, so they can feel more confident when asking to test drive a car or visiting a showroom, if that’s what they prefer.
Over time, this community has grown with not only women drivers and buyers but also female EV experts who work in the industry either at dealerships, manufacturers, energy, charger or insurance companies.
We are also privileged to have Kate Tyrell from ChargeSafe as an expert who started her business because, like many of us who charge publicly, she felt vulnerable charging her EV in a parking spot tucked away from anyone else.
Michelle with Kate Tyrell
There are lots of useful EV groups out there for every make or model, location etc. Women Drive Electric UK is a community built to help those who don’t normally talk about cars to have a conversation. By raising awareness of all the options available to them, we hope to encourage women to learn about driving an EV ahead of 2030 and we want them to enjoy buying a car.
For the purpose of this blog, we use the word women to mean people who identify as female and men for people who identify as male.
From time-to-time we host guest blogs on our website. The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest blog posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Electric Vehicle Association England. Want to contribute to our blog? Contact us here!