More and more women are opting to buy sports utility vehicles (SUVs) rather than go for the plush comfort of an executive sedan, as the burly vehicles give them a better sense of control and security on the road. Moreover, they help keep hooligans at bumper-length.
The trend has gained momentum in the last couple of years and is more pronounced in the northern parts of the country, where road discipline is perceived to be worse than the south. An SUV, due to its robust build and high ground clearance (giving a correspondingly high seating position) boasts of a better road presence.
"This is a trend that started much earlier but has gained prominence," said Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor, which makes SUVs such as the popular Fortuner, Prado and Land Cruiser. "Today women prefer to drive and move around in safe and reliable vehicles like multi-purpose vehicles (MUVs) and SUVs."
Anu Bharara, a 35 year old Gurgaon-based human resource executive, has been driving around in a Mahindra Scorpio for the last three years, and swears by the protection that it offers. A mother of two, Bharara used to drive a Honda City previously.
"For a woman, driving on Delhi roads can be a harrowing experience and there are so many stories one can narrate," she says. "Whenever they see a girl behind a wheel, they (men) try to overtake as they feel inferior if they are behind. In a Scorpio, I feel safe and powerful because it is a macho vehicle. Now men keep a distance and think twice before overtaking."
India's largest utility vehicle manufacturer, Mahindra and Mahindra, agreed that preferences have changed, and women are now more confident and want their own space on the road.
"We often see women talk about their preference for driving a SUV because of safety and feeling of being in control," said Pawan Goenka, president automotive division, Mahindra and Mahindra. "Recently in one award function a lady actor from Bollywood, when asked about whether she prefers an SUV or a sports car, chose SUV without any hesitation."
With the entry of cheaper SUVs like Renault Duster and Ford EcoSport, the chances of spotting more women in SUVs will only go up.