Ladies’ First with Volvo YCC Concept

March 3, 2004

2004 Geneva Motor Show Index by TCC Team (2/22/2004)

The Volvo YCC, or Your Concept Car, which bows today at the Geneva Auto Show, is not a chick car. Nor is it pink. But it has been completely designed and developed by a female team of Volvo employees — and that is a first in the car industry.

Last November, I had the opportunity to step into the project, take a look at the car and talk to the women involved. The fact that a car manufacturer invites journalists in any stage of concept development is not a first, but it is still an unusual occasion.

The concept arose from Volvo’s unique demographics, which skew toward females more than many import brands. In the U.S. 53 percent of Volvo buyers are female. But in Europe, Volvo is not doing so well with women. Although half of the buyers in Europe’s premium segment are female, only 14 percent of them are driving a Volvo.

So the Swedes sought help from outside. In October 2001, during a presentation at Volvo’s headquarters, a marketing lady pointed out how Volvo could be more successful amongst women. Thereupon some female Volvo employees got the idea to build a concept car, for women — by women. They asked their manager to come up with more names of females in the company to form a team. Communications manager Tatjana Butovitsch Temm was the only one to be involved in the project on a full-time basis, and after half a year she presented the plan to Volvo’s President and CEO Hans-Olov Olsson as the MCC, My Concept Car.

It was hard to find women within the company who could be made available from other jobs for more than a year. The work has been done by the team of 120 at its peak, 80 percent of them women. Where there was no woman with a particular expertise, men were put into the project, although none of them were given any “voting power.” 

2004 Volvo YCC

2004 Volvo YCC

“Initially, they had to face a lot of resistance,” Mr. Olsson said. “Some wondered if it would work, if they were really able to perform.” He gave the project the green light, as Volvo hopes the prototype will send messages to female buyers and also to female employees to work with the still male-dominated car company, where only 11 percent of managers are women, which is lower than parent company Ford, where in its U.S. operations 20 percent are women. Mr. Olsson said that he hopes the concept will give 16-year-old girls a positive image of Volvo, perhaps even encouraging them to decide to work with cars at Volvo.

Relating to women

When I met the team in November, the name of the project had been changed into YCC, Your Concept Car.  In the beginning, the team had met some difficulties related to the fact that women take more time to discuss things, to question a lot.  The project was so much delayed that they had to start again. Then “Eve” was created: the premium independent woman, a target customer for whom the car was going to be designed. Eve wants all a man wants, and more. Her list is longer. She wants to store her bag and cellphone in a safe place, wants hassle-free parking, wants to get in and out of the car easily and in elegant style. She wants a vehicle that’s ideal to park and easy to maintain.

The Volvo team came up with an unexpected bold design and several nice solutions for the unusual concept. The YCC has gullwing doors for easy access. The lower and mostly the dirty part of the door folds out and down. The height of the car is variable from 55.8 to 58.2 inches for easy access.

There is no hood. The large front section can only be lifted in the garage. When the car needs maintenance (after 35,000 miles), the dealer receives a digital message from the car and the customer is contacted for an appointment. There is no fuel cap, but an opening with a ball valve as in race cars. Next to it there is an opening for refilling window washer fluid.
And as nobody wants to be bothered with cleaning a car, the YCC team looked for dirt-repellent paint and found it in an unusual place — in New York, where it’s used for the garbage trucks.

2004 Volvo YCC

2004 Volvo YCC

A lot of effort has gone into developing the interior. The Volvo team came up with interchangeable seat cushions. In combination with matching carpet, these cushions could be available at the dealers and would allow drivers to choose different colors and materials during the life of a car. The emergency brake is electric, so there is room for a lot of storage in the long center console that is covered with sliding panels. The rear seats fold up theater-style for more storage space behind the front seats.

Revolutionary is de use of adjustable headrests. Volvo is very stubborn in using fixed ones: that way they are always in the right position, is the principle of the Swedes. But the female team wanted to challenge that and not only come up with adjustable ones, they are also split in the middle. That way people with a ponytail do not have to bend their head forward when driving. “This is exactly what a concept car is meant to be: testing new ideas and challenging old ones,” interior designer Cindy Charwick said.

The dashboard is simple with one dial in the middle of the instrument panel and other information popping up when the driver wants it. The control panel in the middle of the dashboard can be turned 30 degrees toward the driver. The central part of the steering wheel is fixed and the ring is used for operating the Geartronic six-speed transmission.
Power? Oh yes. The YCC uses the ULEV version of Volvo’s 2.5-liter five cylinder engine with 210 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. The car is 173 inches long, 72 inches wide, and 55.8 to 58.2 inches high. And as you can see, it is painted in an eggshell color, not pink.

Mr. Olsson told us that the car has a budget of about $3.5 million, the same amount that Volvo has available for other concept cars: “The YCC fits in our long-term strategy and is in line with our aggressive product planning. The project is also good for men. The YCC team demonstrates to the Volvo organization what it means to listen to the market and the customer.”

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