The Lure and Limits of Smart Cars: Visual Analysis of Gender and Diversity in Car Branding

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Introduction: Currently Europe regards itself as a leader in the global race towards smart automated transport. According to ERTRAC, European Road Transport Research Advisory Council, automated driving innovation is motivated by technological advancements as well as “social goals of equality”. This article analyzes to what extent such dimensions of gender and diversity have become visible in smart car advertisements and how they correspond with the notion of Gender-Smart Mobility, which signifies equal and accessible transport solutions. Methods: Guided by theoretical notions of gender scripts and discourse analysis, this article addresses how perspectives of smart technology, gender, and class are carved out and handled in YouTube videos applied as marketing tools. Using visual analysis as a method, videos from well-known car producers such as BMW and Volvo are scrutinized. The visual analysis includes a presentation of the car company, descriptions of the most relevant YouTube videos, and discussion of the findings. Results: The visual analysis of the Volvo and BMW YouTube videos points to the lack of inclusiveness. There continues to be a prevalent reproduction of gendered stereotypes in the videos, not least in the notion of ‘hyper masculinity’ storytelling by BMW and how leaders (be they women or men) look, i.e., middle-class people. Volvo, on the other hand, has maintained its focus on female professionals in parallel with the introduction of new and energy-saving cars. Yet, a rather one-sided presentation of a professional business-woman is depicted as a replication of the businessman. Conclusion: In the final section, it is assessed how the visual branding complies with the notion of Gender-Smart Mobility, a concept that was developed in the EU Horizon 2020 project TInnGO. The two brands meet the Gender-Smart Mobility indicator, but only to some degree. None of the companies are fully inclusive, and it is difficult to label them as gender-smart and sustainable despite their ambitions of feeding into the green transition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6906
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number11
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

    Research areas

  • BMW, diversity, gender, gender scripts, middle class, smart cars, visual analysis, Volvo, YouTube videos

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