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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 March, 2004, 10:56 GMT
Girl Power softens Volvo's edges
By Jorn Madslien
BBC News Online business reporter at the Geneva motor show

Volvo's new 'Your Concept Car'
Volvo's new 'Your Concept Car' is sleek and low-maintenance

Volvo's new concept car, launched at the Geneva motor show, is a car designed by women for women.

If the Calendar Girls were making cars, this is what they would look like.

Volvo's latest offering seems to be almost more of a break with tradition than the Women's Institute members stripping off for a calendar.

The 'Your Concept Car' (YCC), on display for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show, was designed by a team of women keen to change the way most cars are designed with male drivers in mind.

Swedes being Swedes, the Volvo concept car remains eminently sensible.

Only this time, it is common sense spelt with an F for Feminine rather than Farmer.

Stylish

Seat pads, attached with magnets, can be removed to be cleaned.

Volvo's new 'Your Concept Car'
The interior seat pads are replaceable
And the pads are available in different colours and textures to match a woman's outfit, or even the weather.

"The car is shown with a light yellow, embroidered seat pad, maybe for the more elegant occasion," Maria Widell Christiansen told BBC News Online.

"Then in winter you might chose a woollen seat pad, maybe in a strong cosy colour or you may go for the lighter, more Scandinavian looking one."

Practical

It is all very touchy feely, a mood encouraged by women-friendly Volvo boss Hans-Olov Olsson.

NEW MODELS ON SHOW
Volvo new concept car
Volvo's concept car

But the YCC also offers a lot of practical solutions.

Take the back seats which, like cinema seats, are folded down only when needed for seating, leaving space for shopping and sports bags behind the front seats when they are not being used.

Or the special umbrella, coins and key compartments inside the car's bodywork.

"It is storage, storage and more storage," said Ms Christiansen.

Trust

The car's bonnet is another fun feature.

The whole front of the car is moulded in one piece which can be removed only by a Volvo mechanic.

"Honestly, the only time I open the bonnet on my car is when I want to fill up washer fluid," said Tatiana Butovitsch Temm.

"Do we need to have a one metre square hatch for that or could we do it in another way?

"So we shifted the filling station for washer fluid to the side of the car, next to where you fill up fuel, and we closed the bonnet for good."

The car should be programmed to discover any problems under the bonnet, then send a message to the garage to let them know.

The mechanics would then contact the women directly to invite them over.

"If the car says nothing, then everything is fine," said Ms Temm optimistically.

Such thinking may not convince anyone who has called the breakdown services lately, but the appeal of a low maintenance car may still be strong.

"It is minimal maintenance, really, because the customers have limited time and they don't want a car that gives them a lot of hassle," said Ms Christiansen.

Groovy

Comfort for female drivers is another area traditional car designers often ignore, according to Volvo´s women.

So they have implemented a body scanning system which enables the car to automatically adjust seats, mirrors, steering wheels and pedals.

And for women with ponytails, there is even a split in the middle of the headrest.

"It is very uncomfortable to drive with a ponytail," said Ms Christiansen.

Ideas

Volvo will never actually take this car into production, of course.

But many of the ideas hatched by the female think-tank may still appear in more conventional Volvos, as well as in other cars within the group.

Volvo is a subsidiary of Ford, and the Swedish carmaker's idiosyncratic insistence on practicality and safety seems to be spreading within the group.

Take the new Mondeo which is to be built on the Volvo S60 platform.

The decision was apparently taken after Volvo refused to accept plans to use a Mazda platform across the group since it did not live up to its safety standards.




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