a spotter’s guide to the revolution: sex

fashion, beauty, style and culture have all been employed to make cars sexy to consumers, but the conversation on sex is changing dramatically — and at the dawn of an “era of disruption” for the auto industry no less.

in a recent nytimes article about how the new cultural emphasis on morals and ethics is reshaping business school curriculums, the co-director of carnegie mellon’s tepper school of business, leanne meyer, said “this is not just a gender issue. it’s a business issue. it has marketing implications, legal implications, h.r. implications.”

this has been going on a long time. through the ages kind of long. #metoo isn’t new — it started a decade ago, and is a relative newcomer to the conversation. In a different nytimes article “how tough is it to change a culture of harassment? ask women at ford,” female workers at ford’s chicago plants have been battling harassment for almost 30 years, albeit quietly, without the bolstering of a national conversation. 

“at a moment when so many people are demanding that sexual harassment no longer be tolerated, the story of the ford plants shows the challenges of transforming a culture.”

i think tepper’s argument about marketing implications is spot on — women buy things. including cars.

even though men have traditionally been targeted in automotive marketing — i’ll go into why in a different post — women are, in my experience, who most often make the final call on which car is purchased. that feminine sway is especially apparent in the luxury car market.

luxury used to be about exclusivity, defined for decades by tribe, attainment, and craftsmanship. but over the last year, what we as culture mean by luxury has changed. the new luxury is about how much downstream impact a purchase has. how much influence the purchase (or refusal to purchase) has. ethics is the new luxury. and at this moment in time, nothing is as ethically charged as sex. 

I have used, to great success, the notion of the ‘sexy attractor’ to sell cars. i’m pretty sure i will again. we remain, after all, sexual beings.

i am personally invested in this conversation. I’m curious about the emerging rules of engagement, and actively championing new codes of conduct in culture — and in courting consumers.