September 28, 2011

But Why Do Sliding Doors Question Your Masculinity?

I did not accept GM's invitation to visit Detroit for their Dadmobile junket for several reasons, some logistical, some ethical, and some on principle. The first category is boring. The second category pretty flimsy, considering I'm already on record offering endless, fawning coverage in exchange for a DOT/EPA-certified Mercedes A- or B-Class.

My principled objection was not based on the topline of their survey-driven Dadmobile media campaign, which is rock solid:

Move Over, Mom: Dad's Becoming the Car Pool King
National survey finds majority of fathers active in driving kids to and fro
Great. Sounds right. About time. Actually, no. GM's been targeting their full-size family vehicles at dads since at least 2008, when they launched the Chevy Traverse and its rebadged brethren. [Remember this annoying kid?]

And I don't even dispute the survey results that men prefer other types of cars to minivans:

While moms may prefer minivans for their sliding doors, more than half (58 percent) of the dads surveyed prefer to do their business, personal and leisure shuttling in a family hauler that doesn't question their masculinity. In fact, survey results demonstrated that fathers gave their current family vehicle a 6.4 "cool" rating on a 10-point scale.
Wait, what? Hold on, there, Top.

On the most basic level, it makes perfect sense for a company which offers no sliding door "family haulers" to argue that they're not cool. Or even necessary. But what GM is doing here is marketing to men by grabbing onto an association between sliding doors and minivans with women--and then giving it a squeeze with the assertion that such a car--a sliding door family car--"questions their masculinity."

And that bugs.

For one thing, just flip this interpretation of Chevy's survey results around: 42 percent of dads apparently "prefer" driving cars that "question their masculinity." Really?

Actually, I just realized this preference finding relates to "their business, personal and leisure shuttling," which were different survey categories from family shuttling and carpooling. In other words, it's the cross-functional core of the crossover offering. You're fine taking the kids to school in anything, but you don't want to drive your team to Five Guys in the minivan. Is that what this is about?

Crossovers, especially vehicles like the Chevy Traverse, are basically car-platform-based SUVs. They've come a ways since 2004, when Malcolm Gladwell so thoroughly debunked the comforting myth of SUV safety. But I think crossovers like the Traverse still cling to the SUV illusion of safety through power and street dominance. It's as if GM's brand DNA still contains traces of Hummer, the military-wannabe SUV named after a blowjob and driven most often by insecure douchebags.

Which gets me back to the question in the headline. Any thoughts?

Oh man, how could I get this far without even mentioning the nutso Dads Gone Wild Honda Odyssey video made by that one agency on spec?

Move Over, Mom: Dad's Becoming the Car Pool King [media.gm.com]
Previously: Shotgun! A Postphenomenological Exegesis On Gendered Motors' Launch Of The Chevy Traverse

10 Comments

I can't believe you don't want to $core as much of the $weet, $weet blogging $wag as you can, although I am not sure if a free ride in a Chevy qualifies.

We could all spill much ink disputing GM's assertions but I think we can make a strong case by pointing to another GM vehicle. I give you Exhibit A(-Team): http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-0ah8zDO_nEA/TZK4IrzQo5I/AAAAAAAAJ1U/Nrixoz9OoQk/s1600/a-team-van_s640x412.jpg

I'll just add that I've driven the Traverse and it does not evoke any sense of masculinity at all. This is not a criticism of the car. It drives very well and makes a whole lot more sense for most people than the truck-based SUVs they were driving 10 years ago. It's a whole lot closer to the typical minivan than a Hummer and I mean that as a compliment. If you're getting a crossover instead of a minivan you're doing it because you want a little extra ground clearance and available AWD. If you're doing doing it as part of an effort to bolster your masculinity, you're just looking at the wrong car. If you've got a FWD crossover and you're driving in the cul-de-sacs of the sun belt shown in the video you (and the kids and the team) would be better off in a minivan (sliding doors and all).

Because nothing says masculine like a maroon crossover, subtle background music, b-roll footage and lousy stock photography.

I remain shocked that well after they peaked (and are now on the rebound), minivans and/or station wagons are still held out for public flogging whenever possible to sell crossovers or SUVs.

I'd love to shoot the reverse ad:
Jenny just got a new CTS Wagon. April chides her saying "A wagon?, isn't that a bit motherly?". Jenny looks past her across the parking lot of the big box store, and it cuts to a montage of a dozen moms in mom-jeans shutting the doors on CUVs and SUVs. Outro shot is Jenny driving up a windy road, engine noise audible, smiling at how her car handles and drives.

Appreciating a car is one thing, but relying on it to verify one's masculinity is so 1950s.

I agree sliding doors aren't just for chicks.

But why would you pass up a chance for freebies, test drives and time away from the kids for just a few hours?! Do they feed you at the events?

For the record, I'm no Mercedes snob. I'll drive anything big enough to hold me. Especially if there's food there too.

Sliders not masculine? Are you saying I have problems with my manhood because my 767 has sliding doors?

I'd love any car with sliding doors, why's that I wonder? Must be some kind of masculinity associated with them. Heh

I personally detest minivans, but the "macho grocery getter" gas guzzler is at least twice as pitiful for all the sad posturing it represents.

I'll take my Subaru wagon any day. Now if I could just get it fitted with gull wing doors...

I might actually consider buying a Traverse over a MVan if it had sliding doors.

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