March 29, 2006

Ladies, Start Your Engines

Ladies, ever feel like cars that are designed by men are designed for men? Today something like 65% of all vehicles purchased are purchased by women and something like 85% of all vehicles purchased have input by women.

So why are vehicles not more women friendly?

Carmakers are starting to introduce male engineers to some of the problems women have with today's vehicles. How you ask?

In Detroit, Mary Sipes, General Motors' vehicle line director for full-size SUVs, had an unusual assignment for one of her male engineers as the 2007 Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon were being developed.

The engineer was told to go to Payless Shoes and buy a pair of size 12 high heels. He did just that, picking out a cream-colored pair.

It was all for a good cause: the "Mr. Mom" competition in the automaker's internal "Olympics" held at the GM Proving Grounds in Milford.

The all-male contestants in that particular event had to wear a skirt, heels, and fake fingernails. They were given a baby stroller and a baby doll. Before them stood a row of Escalades, Tahoes and Yukons. They had to wheel the baby stroller up to the vehicle, unlock it, load the baby in a car seat without "hurting" it and jump into the driver's seat without ripping the skirt or a nail.

All of these "mommy exercises" have resulted in some practical improvements.

Sipes says one step forward is a rear-seat DVD entertainment system that can be loaded from the instrument panel. Some SUVs, like the 2007 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, have awkward systems in such odd locations as the bottom of the right passenger's seat in the second row.

"Moms want to have control over that, especially if the kids are in child seats," she said. "With earlier systems, moms had to reach back to get the movie going."

Escalade buyers who opt for rear-seat entertainment can now load DVDs from a slot on the dashboard -- a feature I suspect will be copied by the Chinese before too long.

Hattip: The Detroit News

Posted by Quality Weenie at March 29, 2006 08:10 AM | TrackBack

But wait, I thought men and women were exactly alike? How can women face challenges that men don't have to? That's either not possible or sexism, isn't it?

Posted by: Ogre at March 29, 2006 10:16 AM