The design and engineering were initiated by women employees at Volvo, a company that already leads the industry in gender equity with its twenty-five percent female workforce.
The car reportedly doesn’t need washing and books itself in for servicing. Mainstream press coverage of the car highlights the headrest, which features a gap for ponytails. It also has removable seat pads and carpets with a range of eight upholstery and carpet styles in materials like wool and linen.
The car features glamorous gull-wing doors making it easy to get in and out of and the extra wide and high bumper bars and electronic parking system that measures the size of the space are intended to make it easier to get in and out of parking spots too.
In 2001 the Volvo Group’s CEO Leif Johansson joined a working committee dedicated to ensuring that more women achieve leading positions in trade and industry. The committee collaborated on a project initiated by the Swedish Centre for Business and Policy Studies to create greater opportunities to adapt the company’s production to increasingly diverse markets.
According to Volvo research, women constitute a significant component of these markets with growth potential. This strategy of helping develop women’s careers within Volvo, while addressing the company’s bottom line, was endorsed by Hans-Olov Olsson the new CEO of the Volvo Group.
Earlier appeals to women consumers by the automotive industry have largely been a somewhat patronising appeal to women’s tastes as opposed to the different needs that woman may have in relation to their cars.
Three years ago, for example, Volvo Australia employed the tried and true strategy asking a woman designer to become associated with its product.
It appointed leading Australian fashion designer Lisa Ho as ambassador, giving her a new black S80 to drive. This approach has a long history in Australia with Ford employing artist/illustrator and doyenne of good taste Thea Proctor, to advise on colour schemes as far back as 1929.
The development of a concept car designed and engineered by women at Volvo is an interesting first that has the capacity to benefit consumers through practical innovations that may eventually find their way into production.
It is likely to have been a highly useful addition to the careers of a group of women working in the automotive industry and of benefit to the Volvo company through the publicity, PR and a more empowered and enthusiastic generation of women employees.
The project is described in a press release, as intended to help the company invigorate its management, organisation and production. This is quite a brief to fill for a group of workers whose representation in all aspects of the industry has lagged.
There is something strangely familiar here in how women are being given ‘a leg up’, but meanwhile the helping hand on the leg is itself asking for quite a lot. Expect the redoubtable Swedish women of Volvo to rise to the task however.
Tatiana Butovitsch Temm of Volvo’s public affairs department says, “It’s been said that if you meet women’s expectations, you often exceed the expectation of men.”