2008 Dodge ViperClick to enlarge picture

2008 Dodge Viper

Ask any woman if she wants to spend her money to buy and drive a Dodge Viper.

It's a head-turning, V10-powered, two-seat sports car whose starting manufacturer's suggested retail price is more than $80,000.

Chances are almost certain that the woman you ask wouldn't be seriously interested.

At least two studies released in 2004 show the Viper is the best vehicle, among volume models, at attracting a high proportion of men buyers and pitifully few women.

Now, turn the tables. Ask any man if he wants to spend his money to buy and drive a 4-cylinder-powered Toyota RAV4.

You guessed it. The RAV4 compact sport utility vehicle, which starts at just over $18,000, is among the vehicles that attract the largest percentage of women buyers and the lowest percentage of men, according to two auto industry reports.

"Guys like to go fast and make noise; girls don't," explained Charlie Vogelheim, editor at Kelley Blue Book, which monitors auto industry trends and pricing.

"Those of us who were raised in the late '60s and in the '70s were told" girls and boys didn't have to follow stereotypes, Vogelheim continued. "But after having families of our own, we realize that (males and females) just are different."

Vogelheim also realizes that there are men and women who don't fit the stereotypes. They're just few and far between and don't sway the overall automotive statistics.

Different Lists
The Viper, with at least 91 percent of its buyers being men, is just one of the performance machines where male buyers clearly dominate.

According to the national motor vehicle registration database compiled for 2003 by R.L. Polk & Co., the BMW M5 and Porsche 911 were Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, in male buyer percentages with at least 88.8 percent of the buyers being men.

The M5 is the performance version of the BMW 5-Series, while the 911 is a famous two-seat Porsche sports car. Prices for these models are $60,000 and up.

"For men, a vehicle has an image aspect," said Mark Pauze, analytic consultant at Polk in Southfield, Mich. "The vehicles are more tied in with ego. There's a certain amount of status."

The Viper and 911 also topped the male list compiled via a separate survey of more than 85,000 recent car buyers by San Diego-based Strategic Vision.

The Chevrolet Corvette convertible, an all-American, V8-powered sports car, was third with just over 89 percent of its buyers being men, according to Strategic Vision. Starting MSRP for the Corvette is more than $40,000.

Men love trucks, tooAlong with sports cars, pickup trucks consistently garner the largest percentages of male buyers, according to the studies.

The GMC Sierra full-size pickup ranked fifth with 87.4 percent of its registered buyers being men, followed by the Chevrolet Silverado at 86.4 percent, Polk said.

The competing Ford F-Series pickup, also made the top 10 with a clear majority of male buyers at 85.1 percent.

Strategic Vision found a similar pattern, with four pickup trucks whose overwhelming percentage of male buyers put them in the top 10: The Toyota Tundra (89.1 percent), Dodge Dakota (88.9 percent), Chevy Silverado (87.3 percent), and GMC Sierra (87.3 percent).

Women's selections
Women are pretty predictable, too.

Both Polk and Strategic Vision listed the Toyota RAV4 as a very popular choice for women. In Polk's vehicle registration analysis for 2003, 57.4 percent of the RAV4s sold were registered by women. This made it No. 1 in terms of Polk's percentage of women buyers.

But Strategic Vision's survey of car buyers indicated 71.1 percent of the RAV4s purchased were for women in the household.

Dan Gorrell, vice president at Strategic Vision, said the difference in the numbers likely results because many vehicles are registered in the name of the principal member of the household, who is often a man. But in reality, the vehicle might be considered the woman's vehicle in the family because she's the primary driver of it, which is why Strategic Vision's percentage for the RAV4 is thought to be so much higher than that for Polk.

After the 161-horsepower RAV4, women tend to dominate as purchasers of small, affordably priced small cars, especially those that have a reputation for being easy to buy.

For example, the Saturn SC, Saturn SL and Saturn ION models ranked Nos. 2, 3 and 4, respectively, in Polk's 2003 database, with a minimum of 53.9 percent of registered buyers being women.

Starting prices of these Saturns are around $10,000, and the Saturn brand has fostered an image for "no-hassle" buying.

Women like convertibles, SUVs
In Strategic Vision's report, women apparently also sought to get some "fun" aspect into their inexpensively priced, small cars by dominating in the purchase of some convertible models.

For example, the Volkswagen New Beetle convertible, with a starting price around $21,000, had the highest percentage of female buyers, with 76.75 percent of the buyers being women.

The RAV4 was second, followed by the New Beetle hardtop hatchback at 69.5 percent and the Toyota Camry Solara convertible, which starts around $26,000, at 67.8 percent.

The RAV4 wasn't the only compact, affordable SUV with a significant majority of women buyers.

Strategic Vision found the Ford Escape, with 66.1 percent of its buyers being women, and the Saturn VUE, with 65.2 percent, were among the top 10 vehicles for women.

The 2004 Escape has a starting MSRP around $19,000, while the VUE starts around $17,000.

Some Myths Exposed
Ever since the 1980s, it has been a common claim that minivans are "mom mobiles."

But buyer data from calendar 2003 showed nearly equal numbers of men and women bought the Mazda MPV, Pontiac Montana, Chevrolet Venture and Dodge Caravan minivans, according to Strategic Vision's survey of new-vehicle buyers.

The percentage of men buyers of the MPV was 49.2 percent vs. the 50.8 percent of women buyers. It was the same percentages for the Montana.

BMW is known for its performance autos and has an image of mostly male buyers, especially for its higher-priced models.

But according to Strategic Vision's survey of new buyers, purchasers of the BMW M5 were evenly split, 50-50, between men and women. The X5 starts around $41,000, which makes it one of the more expensive models that attracts a good share of women buyers.

Guy Cars

  1. Dodge Viper, 93.7 percent male
  2. BMW M5, 92.6 percent male
  3. Porsche 911, 88.8 percent male
  4. Audi A8, 87.6 percent male
  5. GMC Sierra, 87.4 percent male
  6. Chevrolet Silverado, 86.4 percent male
  7. BMW M3, 86.2 percent male
  8. Chevrolet Corvette, 85.1 percent male
  9. Ford F-Series, 85.1 percent male
  10. Ford Econoline, 84.6 percent male

Gal's Cars

  1. Toyota RAV4, 57.4 percent female
  2. Saturn SC, 56.1 percent female
  3. Saturn SL, 54.5 percent female
  4. Saturn ION, 53.9 percent female
  5. Kia Sportage, 53.6 percent female
  6. Volvo S40, 53.5 percent female
  7. Volkswagen New Beetle, 53.4 percent female
  8. Mazda 626, 52.9 percent female
  9. Pontiac Sunfire, 53.4 percent female
  10. Toyota ECHO, 51.9 percent female

Source: R.L. Polk & Co. national vehicle registration database involving vehicles with more than 1,000 annual retail sales.

Guy Cars

  1. Dodge Viper, 91 percent male
  2. Porsche 911, 90.1 percent male
  3. Chevrolet Corvette Convertible , 89.25 percent male
  4. Toyota Tundra, 89.1 percent male
  5. Maserati Coupe, 89.1 percent male
  6. Dodge Dakota, 88.9 percent male
  7. Mercury Marauder, 88.5 percent male
  8. Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, 87.8 percent male
  9. Chevrolet Silverado, 87.3 percent male
  10. GMC Sierra, 87.3 percent male

Gal's Cars

  1. Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible, 76.75 percent female
  2. Toyota RAV4, 71.2 percent female
  3. Volkswagen New Beetle hardtop, 69.5 percent female
  4. Toyota Camry Solara Convertible, 67.8 percent female
  5. Dodge Stratus sedan, 67.6 percent female
  6. Subaru Impreza Outback, 67.1 percent female
  7. Dodge Stratus coupe, 66.7 percent female
  8. Ford Escape, 66.1 percent female
  9. Volvo S40 sedan, 65.5 percent female
  10. Saturn VUE, 65.2 percent female

Source: Strategic Vision annual survey of 85,000 new buyers.

Ann Job is a writer for T&A Ink.

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