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Nissan Boss - Train more women engineers to design cars women actually want to drive
Speaking at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ annual motor industry conference in London, Dr Andy Palmer, executive vice-president of Nissan, said research showed half of all women are unhappy with their cars and three-quarters feel ‘misunderstood’. Dr Palmer said that firms are failing to make cars that appeal to females - paying more attention to a car’s horsepower than to the effect of high heels on leg-room. To emphasise the need to train more women engineers to design and create the ‘female-friendly cars of the future, Dr Palmer said "if Britain and Europe didn’t grasp the challenge it will be overtaken by booming China which already educates three times more women engineers than the UK'.
While western universities female engineering graduates comprise less than 10 per cent of each year class. China by comparison produces about 30 per cent.
Palmer said "I’m sure that Nissan is not untypical in employingless than 10per cent female managers in our ranks" adding that a step-change was needed and must be more than cosmetic. More women needed to be employed on the shop-floor - as well as the design and marketing departments - to make a real difference.
The lack of women in the auto business results in seats causing more back pain to women rather than men, the lack of space for strollers, and the sexist sales patter of predominantly male showroom sales staff.
Engineers must learn to pay more attention to how air conditioning affects a woman’s sandalled feet, or how diamond engagement rings can scratch the car door lacquer.
Palmer said ‘If a car company does not have female engineers that is a competitive weakness. Generally the car industry is not seen as female friendly. The best way to address that is to have more females in every part.’ and called on educators to place more focus on training more female engineers who could help to design the female-friendly cars of the future and more job creation based around those from a technology and mathematical background.
Nissan is not alone in reacting to the purchasing power of women who, even if they don’t buy a car themselves, are the key influence in seven out of ten car purchases. Ford is among those firms that does take women drivers seriously and has its own Women’s Product Panel to advise it. Angela Engel, who chairs the Ford panel, said woman ask questions such as could a door handle be grabbed without a ring scratching the lacquer, will high heels mean knees hit steering wheels, and how easy is it to get in the car when wearing a tight skirt.
Renault’s customer knowledge department and General Motors’ interior design department are headed by women. Bentley’s engineers have designed ‘pearl pink’ and ‘dragon red’ options for China’s women.
When will we see more women at the C level in major car companies?
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