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Call For More Female Auto Engineers

By raccars Published

One of Britain's most important automotive executives has criticised his industry's treatment of female consumers, claiming that manufacturers are failing to take women's needs into account when designing and building new cars.

Dr Andy Palmer is an executive vice president of Nissan, who is now based in Japan, after a formative career in the British automotive sector. He is spearheading a call to train more female engineers, to help create more female friendly vehicles, claiming that manufacturers are currently ignoring what he considers to be the world's biggest and most influential consumer group.

Dr Palmer's concerns are part of research showing that half of female drivers are not happy with their cars and 75% feel they are misunderstood by the auto industry. It is thought that women influence seven out of ten car purchasing decisions, even when they are not buying for themselves, but Dr Palmer expressed anxiety about the amount of focus on horsepower, rather than comfortable seating or cargo space for prams.

He claimed that Britain and Europe are in danger of being eclipsed by the emerging Chinese economy, where three times as many trainee engineers are female, compared to the UK. Dr Palmer asserts that the existing, male dominated auto engineering industry does not pay enough attention to details, such as the effect of air conditioning upon feminine, sandalled feet or scratches to paintwork from jewellery. Behaviour such as neglecting to factor in the effect of high heels on legroom and sexist sales strategies, shows engineers are failing this most important customer segment.

Dr Palmer's comments were made at an annual conference of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in London and backed up by Sue Robinson, a Franchised Dealers' Association director, who represents 4,000 UK dealers, as part of the Retail Motor industry Federation. A survey of UK drivers in 1989, showed that 11.1 million of a total 27.8 million drivers were women. However, current statistics show 35.2 million drivers on UK roads, of which 16.3 million are women. David Bizley, technical director at the RAC, believes that car makers must adapt to satisfy the rising percentage of female drivers.

Despite the negativity, change is afoot. Companies including Ford have developed research programmes, to advise them of specific requirements that should be considered, to cater better to female drivers' needs, while Renault and General Motors have customer knowledge and interior design departments, respectively, which are led by female executives. Further afield, Bentley is consolidating its booming Chinese sales success by coming up with 'pearl pink' and 'dragon red' colourways, specifically designed for that country's female consumers.

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