Making products work for women is more than just taking whatever product on the shelf and making it pink. Cosmopolitan and SEAT, a Spanish division of Volkswagen, found that out the hard way at London Fashion Week, when they introduced the SEAT Mii by Cosmopolitan.
The car isn’t a specific model for women to begin with. The Mii is the cheapest car in the SEAT lineup, and is available in badge-engineered versions called the Skoda Citigo and Volkswagen Up! in Europe and the UK. It’s generally well regarded as being a fun-to-drive, city-friendly economy car.
For London Fashion Week, SEAT and Cosmopolitan got together to unveil a specific version called the SEAT Mii by Cosmopolitan — according to the SEAT press release — a “fun and fearless” car tailored toward Cosmopolitan’s audience: the “Cosmo Girl.”
The car features “jewelled, bi-colour alloy wheels,” a “design that reflects a bold, audacious lifestyle” working together to provide drivers “a surprise sparkle,” according to the press release.
And then there are the eyeliner-rimmed headlights, “emphasised in the same way as make-up emphasises the eye.”
You could forgive the tone-deafness if it was a hastily thrown together model, patched together the night before the show, but that’s not the case. The SEAT Mii by Cosmopolitan is the product of an 18-month collaboration between the SEAT’s creative teams and Cosmopolitan’s regional editors in Europe and the UK, and included reader surveys.
Those readers apparently weren’t on twitter.
— Louise (@lvinlovewith) September 21, 2016
— Courtney Terrey (@CourtneyTerrey) September 21, 2016
— Katie (@kshap17) September 20, 2016
— Laura Crossman (@Laura_jcrossman) September 20, 2016
This isn’t the first time an automotive manufacturer has targeted women with a car laden with the tropes of femininity, but the last time was in 1955. The reception wasn’t that much better for the Dodge LaFemme, the product of the observation at Chrysler that women were taking an interest in buying cars during the 1950s.
1955 La Femme interiors featured special tapestry upholstery with pink rosebuds on a pale silver-pink background and pale pink vinyl trim.
Each La Femme came with a pink calfskin purse color-matched to the interior, which contained a face-powder compact, lipstick case, cigarette case, comb, cigarette lighter and change purse, designed by “Evans”, a maker of women’s fine garments and accessories in Chicago.
Twitter wasn’t a thing in 1955, but the LaFemme suffered much the same fate as Cosmo’s car. Just about 2,500 were built between 1955 and 1956.
PRO TIP: Design cars for humans and everybody will buy them.