The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

9 August 2007

Now it can be told

The new GM900 platform (Tahoe, Suburban, Denali, et al.) has gotten decent reviews, though sales are running a bit below expectations, perhaps due to the combination of a queasy stock market and ghastly gas prices. But whatever the problem, you can't blame it on ignoring the needs of female drivers:

When the SUVs were in development, [line manager Mary] Sipes took the future, full-line SUV team out to the proving grounds to do some vehicle testing. They expected the usual driving exercises, but she had another idea. Hint, hint: On the way she stopped at a shoe store to buy several pairs of size-12 high heels.

"A few times a year we go off site and try to have a learning exercise that is a lot of fun," said Sipes. "We took our group to the proving grounds and broke them into teams. One guy on each team had to be Mr. Mom. We dressed him in a garbage bag to simulate a tight skirt. We gave him rubber gloves with press-on nails, a purse, a baby, and a baby stroller and some chores like loading groceries."

You might think this was kind of a drag, but there was a reason for it:

With all female handicaps in place, the men were then required to go through what women do routinely every day. They had to put the baby in a car seat and buckle them in, fold up the stroller, pull up the liftgate and stow the stroller, put grocery bags in the back. They then had to walk around the vehicle and step into it not using the running board. Wearing the gloves with press on nails they had to operate the key fob, adjust the radio and then figure out what to do with their purses — without breaking or losing a nail. Lost or broken fingernails or torn garbage bag skirts resulted in points against the final score.

And the production models reflected those experiences:

"As a result of our exercises, we made the liftgate easy to open and close, made the console big enough to hold a purse and put running boards on the vehicle," says Sipes.

Chief engineer Mark Cieslak, one of the, um, testers, notes:

"I took for granted that my wife had all these things to do like put our child in a child seat. It isn't that easy in pumps and a skirt."

I draw the following conclusions:

  • This strikes me as a heck of a lot more scientific than listening to the yammering of focus groups;
  • General Motors (in fact, Detroit generally) could definitely use some more female engineers;
  • It's about time to revive the Trans Am.

(Seen at Autoblog.)

Posted at 7:29 PM to Driver's Seat

"It's about time to revive the Trans Am."

Now yer talkin'

Posted by: Jeffro at 11:13 PM on 9 August 2007


Posted by: Kay Dennison at 11:28 PM on 9 August 2007