Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale, Inc., argues if women designed cars, practical automobile features would include comfortable armrests, a small trash can, a refrigerated section and a spot to put a purse. Car design departments, from engineers down to computer graphics guys, usually contain men concerned with cargo space, zero to 60, miles per gallon and aerodynamics. Yet catering to what women want makes good business dollars and sense for carmakers.
If women designed cars, the cars would likely be very different from what is manufactured today. However, designing cars with women in mind can be beneficial for both men and women. Cars could have more comfortable armrests that involve movable parts, lots of padding and shorter lengths for shorter people. Further, charging outlets, retractable cup holders and device storage make up several aspects of what men need too. Regardless of gender, all customers love tech devices, and more empty space goes towards tablets, phones and computers. Contemporary cars should augment portable technology.
Most practical car design standards lack trash cans, even small ones. Parents with messy kids need spots to throw away messes. All designers require is a spot to clip a three-gallon trash bag and hold it open. A plastic receptacle in between floor space of back seats can fold in and out of the back of an armrest. When the bag is full, busy moms just gather up the bag and throw it away at home or at work.
Women and men both need a refrigerated portion of a vehicle integrated into the cargo area. Moms love this section for milk, popsicles, orange juice and frozen meals bought at the store with a long car ride home. Men use the same car design feature for sodas, brewskies and meat storage for tailgating, partying or a day at the beach.
Purse storage is a must for a car design with women in mind. Women need a niche for large purses that will not interfere with a passenger's leg room. A hollowed-out part of the floor space in between front seats forms an ideal place for large purses. However, men can take advantage of the space, too. Easy-to-grab stuff such a personal grooming items, electric shavers and spare neckties fit perfectly into a manly storage compartment for busy career types.
The way to get a carmaker's attention is to hit the company in its bottom line. Women contain half of America's buying power. Take car design elements to task by purchasing vehicles with the best practical features. Take a PR campaign to Twitter or Facebook. Create a blog solely designed to criticize the lack of automobile features for women. With so many auto recalls, car companies do not need more bad press.
Automakers need to realize one essential truth in car design: women and men can both benefit from handy features. Simple literature in the showroom with a few lines of text, and properly educated sales staff, extol virtues of practical spaces in cars. Certainly, car companies' profits improve if dealers can sell to twice as many customers.
Photo courtesy of Johnny Ainsworth at Flickr.com