This is a marvelous example of building a product using customer input up front, rather than simply testing an idea after it's been created. Thank you, Volvo, for having the courage to break out into completely new territory. Here's the article from Reveries in its entirety:
Volvo, the Swedish carmaker that's owned by Ford, wants to "shake up the male dominated culture" within its company, the car industry, and society as a whole, as reported by Noelle Knox in USA Today. And so, a year ago, ceo Hans-Olov Olsson earmarked $3.3 million dollars and allotted 15 months to a temporary team of about 120 employees (about 100 of them women) to create a concept car for women, now set to be unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show, http://www.salon-auto.ch, in March 2004. With three months to go, the project already appears to be a huge success: With three months to go, the project already appears to be a huge success: "When you talk to the guys in the Concept Center, they never had a concept project that's been so on time and orderly as this one," says Lena Ekelund, an assistant project manage. She says the women tend to talk a lot in meetings but that typically leads to quick consensus. Men are not permitted to make any decisions about this car.
The team began by surveying 400 Volvo colleagues, and discovered that about three-quarters of them raised the same issues: "Storage, parking, ergonomics and maintenance." The team's solutions were anything but half-measures. First of all, there's no hood on this car, because most women never lift it anyway. The front end is instead designed to be lifted by a mechanic, whose oil change services are required only at 31,000 mile intervals -- and the need for it is sent by "wireless message to a local service center" that will then call up the owner to schedule an appointment. The car has no gas cap, instead featuring a race-car-style "roller-ball valve" where "the nozzle goes in through an opening." The windshield washer fluid goes in right next to it. It "has wide, gull-wing doors" affording easy access, and the rear seats "fold-up," theater style, for extra storage space.
The emergency brake is electric and the headrest has a channel in it for ponytails! Seat covers are machine washable and come in a variety of styles. On the outside, the car "has dirt repellent paint and glass." I want that. And yes, the car can parallel park by itself and also tells the driver whether a parking space is big enough for the car. If the car goes on the market, it is expected to sell in the $30,000 to $50,000 range. Volvo can't be blamed for expecting it to be a hit: Women accounted for 65 percent of all cars purchased in the U.S. last year, and although Volvo, http://www.volvocars.com, claims just one percent of the U.S. market, it attracts 53 percent of all female buyers of luxury cars. Hans-Olav Olsson, the ceo, sees a larger mission, however. He says he hopes Volvo will inspire young women to want to "work with cars ... and work with Volvo. If we can achieve that," he says, "I am very happy. It works on the broader perspective for society and the car industry."