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Hey Freud: Maybe This Car is What Women Want

The question "What do women want?" may have stumped Sigmund Freud, but automaker Volvo has solved car envy successfully in its innovative, stylish sports coupe designed for women. Unlike Freud, Volvo sought answers from an all-women core design team. And although the Volvo YCC (Your Concept Car) is as yet only a prototype to be coveted at car shows, it###s struck a cord among male and female audiences alike. Turns out women want super-sized storage, simplified mechanical gauges and systems, excellent ergonomics and vision, lustrous colors and a sleek, contemporary interior.

The core group of designers, Anna Rosen (exterior styling), Cindy Charwick (interior), and Maria Uggla (color and trim) say, "We focused on if women would prioritize what they wanted in a car, what would come out of that. This car is for the premium segment for Volvo-so we knew both men and women would want the same quality in the engine, in terms of horsepower and quality, but women wanted additional features. So we knew that if we met the expectations of women, we would exceed the expectations of men." Comfort and vision are key. The YCC###s system of ergonomics and vision, called Ergovision (patent pending), scans the driver###s body at the dealership, then uses the data to define the correct individual driving position. It###s stored on the driver###s key, which, when placed in the center console, adjusts the seat, steering wheel, pedals, head restraint and seat belt to optimum position and vision. Because the designers believe women like to feel in control of their environment and be able to personalize it, matching seat and carpet pads come in nine different colors and textures. "You can really personalize the space," says Rosen. "If you love purple, you can have a purple seat pad. Or you can have one that###s warm for winter and one that###s cool for summer." When asked to describe the prototype###s exterior color, Rosen says, "Sandy, goldish color, green yellow, but then it goes bluish-it###s called chameleon." She describes the interior as very light with laminated bleached oak and brushed aluminum finishes. The seat mountings are centered so that the seats appear to float, and the ceiling has been given a starry finish. Figuring that most women really don###t want to open the hood unless absolutely necessary, the YCC###s hood is closed. "Instead of you having to worry about the car, the car cares about you. The driver shouldn###t have to open the hood," says Rosen, "only the mechanic opens it, so the only function that people open the hood for, the washer fluid, is now right next to the regular gas fuel opening, next to the driver###s door." The driver can decide how many gauges and indicators she wants to view. If she loves to see revs and oil pressure, she can. The designers figure most women don###t want to view more than just the gas gauge anyway. When the car needs service, it sends a message by phone to the driver-selected service provider, which calls to schedule an appointment. Basically, the car self-diagnoses, and spare parts are waiting before the car arrives for service. While most coupes don###t feature a lot of storage and visibility, Volvo###s does. "It###s functional as well as sporty," says Rosen. "We brought a lot of passion into the car. We appeal to the emotional as well as the brain aspect. But we know women want function too." The rear seats fold up like cinema seat to create more storage, easily reached from the driver###s door. Knowing that the space between the front seats is the best in the car for storage, the designers moved the gear shift to the steering wheel a la racing cars, and made the electronic hand break automatic. The freed-up space now houses a trash bin, shallow storage, two deep compartments for a lap top or purse, a cool box for drinks as well as shallow storage and cup holders. The designers also borrowed some features from SUVs. The chassis moves up by several inches for off-road capabilities and visibility effectiveness in the city. Lower it, and the coupe grabs the road for sporty handling. The designers will now tour with the car in Europe, where only 14% of Volvo buyers are female. Some fifty percent of car buyers in the U.S. are women and interest in the YCC stateside has been strong.