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Tuesday, April 15, 2008 

Vol. 4 Number 5

Memories of Really Dumb Rides
So How Many of You Remember the "Dodge La Femme"?

So thanks goes out to Al Haas the “On the Road” columnist from the Philadelphia Inquirer for this bog entry. Although technically not dealing with fleet or remarketing, I couldn’t resist comment on his recent March 16 article entitled, “Memories of really dumb rides” which defines what Al considers the four dumbest rides in US history. Now the first two had launch dates before my time, but I was around for the last two, and, at any rate they all were pretty dumb:

1) The Dodge La Femme
2) The Edsel
3) The Subaru BRAT
4) Suzuki X-90

Now everyone is aware of #2, The Edsel, and while the BRAT (stood for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter…of course, we all knew that, right?) was nowhere near as well known, it probably earned its “dumb” rep not as an immediate sales fiasco (it was around for at least a half a dozen years), but because of its “jump seat welded in cargo bed,” created to avoid the 25% import tariff on imported trucks at the time. As I remember it, #4, the Suzuki X-90 was a creation of a different sort, that is, since the Suzuki Samuri SUV (which I remember sold pretty well and was well liked) got hit by Consumer Reports on its propensity to roll over during sudden steering (a bad thing), Suzuki reaction was to build this two-seat, four wheel drive coupe that was neither fish nor fowl, that had neither the Samuri’s off-road capability, nor a car’s on road ride…it fell on its sword, so to speak, only two years on the market. At any rate, the focus of this blog entry is a vehicle that Dodge launched in the 1950’s, way less well known than the Edsel but 100x more silly (or at least it seems that way now), the #1 vehicle on Al’s list, the
Dodge La Femme (yep, there is even a Web site dedicated to it now, and I bet its been viewed by far more people than ever saw the car in its day...).

Apparently back in the 1950’s, Chrysler Corporation for the first time noticed that women were starting to buy a lot of cars, and figured (logically?), that the best way to reach that market was to produce something special, something that seemed to feed into and propagate every stereotype you could imagine about female buyers in that day and age (or any other)…and so was created what could only be called the female stereotype caricature car, the Dodge La Femme. The 1955/56 offering was a Dodge Royal Lancer that overdosed on “pink” or as Al says, a “Royal Lancer on estrogen.” Okay, so the exterior was not pink exactly, but two tone “Sapphire White and Heather Rose” (“Heather Rose”?! that’s um, pink to you and me), with the moniker “La Femme” emblazoned in gold script on the fenders (oh yes, that would go well at the supermarket). The interior, was, of course, pink tapestry upholstery featuring rosebuds (really, I couldn’t make this up).

Now, of course it gets better, as one wouldn’t think of offering this car to women without a few other signature rosebud necessities as well, as the car purchase included the same rosebud interior print on an accompanying raincoat, rain bonnet, umbrella, and, a purse – just about everything the modern little lady might want in life…

I think Al says it best, “Even back in those Ozzie and Harriet heydays, women weren’t buying this brand of patronizing. During the two years the cars were offered, a grand total of 2,500 La Femmes were sold.”

So what do you think women car folks, is pink still the operative color of the day for women buyers, women web sites, etc.? Do you think designer raincoats, bonnets, umbrellas and purses really do enhance the car buying experience for a women consumer? As silly as this all sounds, do things like this, in a much more subdued way, still occur in marketing to women buyers or are large corporations (if not all retailers) more in tune? In the car market? In other product marketing?

Let me know what you think...

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