You Do The Dishes, I'll Get The Car Repaired?

April 5, 2011

J.D. Power did a study some time ago and found that 65 percent of the customers bringing in their cars for repairs are women. Whether it is a matter of the division of household responsibilities, a reflection of the control of family finances or some more subtle family dynamic is better left to sociologists.   

The reason that this came up is that women making auto repair decisions was discussed in an interview by an Arizona NPR affiliate. The interviewee was a representative of a network of independently owned repair shops.  When the interviewer quizzed his subject about the customers his shops were serving he said that women were increasingly the stewards of the family ride, which supports the findings of the study.

What was discussed next is what got my attention. The radio person posed that maybe it was male pride that was causing the shift in responsibility for the family car. The industry rep readily agreed. The theory is that as vehicles become more sophisticated and men become farther removed from how a car works, responsibility for car repairs is then assigned to or assumed by the woman of the house.

The husband would rather his wife deal with the unfamiliar automotive world than admit that he lacks expertise. As a result, according to the interviewee, women have become better educated and empowered about things automotive for one reason--they are not afraid to ask questions about the various systems found in a vehicle. By becoming the people who approve repairs, women have acquired additional automotive knowledge and are increasingly assuming the role of household expert.

While some readers may like to take off on the male need to protect ego, I think the bigger lesson learned is the willingness to ask questions. The repair process should be viewed as an opportunity to acquire knowledge--and as I've pointed out previously, it's your car, and you should demand that procedures be explained in terms you can understand.

As the independent repair shop rep pointed out in the interview, your reaction to an auto repair facility that is not willing to answer questions should be to--run, not walk.

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