Gaywheels.com called BMW hypocritical, pointing out that the automaker targets “the deep pockets” of gays and lesbians by advertising in publications like The Advocate but doesn’t offer domestic-partner benefits to employees.
“Gay and lesbian consumers want to spend their money with gay-friendly companies,” Joe LaMuraglia, publisher of Gaywheels.com, told Advertising Age. “A lot of people will see companies advertising in gay media and assume they are gay friendly.”
Using domestic-partner benefit programs as a criterion, Gaywheels.com lists some 30 “gay-friendly” and nine “non-gay friendly” auto brands. Seven other auto brands are listed as “still investigating” as the publisher waits to hear about the status of their benefits programs.
A BMW spokeswoman said the automaker, in an effort to stay in line with New Jersey laws, does not offer domestic-partner benefits to any staffers.
Growth in buying power
The issue is gaining momentum among shoppers in the community. Gay and lesbian buying power is projected to reach $641 billion this year, according to Witeck-Combs Communications, a Washington-based ad agency specialist in the field.
In December the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights organization, issued its first-ever “Buyers Guide for Equality,” a handbook that gives brands scores based on the group’s annual Corporate Equality Index. The index rates major corporations on criteria including staff policies, advertising and event sponsorships. Some 200,000 guides were downloaded during the first two weeks it was on the group’s Web site, a spokesman said.
Sixty-nine percent of gays and lesbians said that a Buyers Guide recommendation would very likely or likely influence their shopping decisions, according to a recent survey by Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs.
DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Sales USA all received perfect 100 ratings in the rights group's most recent index. General Motors Corp., Volkswagen of America and Subaru of America each scored 86. But Nissan North America scored the worst among top automakers with a 29. Not surprisingly, Nissan receives a “non-gay friendly” classification on Gaywheels.com.
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Gay-friendly brands, according to Gaywheels.com
DaimlerChrysler’s Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz and Maybach
Ford MotorCo.’s Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Aston Martin and majority-controlled Mazda
Toyota Motor Sales USA’s Toyota, Lexus and Scion
General Motors Corp.'s Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Hummer, Pontiac, Saab and Saturn
Volkswagen of America's Audi, VW and Bentley
Subaru of America
Isuzu Motors America
Mitsubishi Motors North America
Non-gay-friendly brands, according to Gaywheels.com:
American Honda Motor Co.'s Acura and Honda
BMW's Mini and BMW
Hyundai Motor America and affiliate Kia Motor America
Nissan North America’s Nissan and Infiniti
American Suzuki Motor Corp.
Brands the group is still waiting to hear from:
Fiat’s Ferrari and Maserati