growing number of women working behind the scenes on U.S.-designed pickup trucks
are revolutionising the way they are built, according to a report in USA Today .

The newspaper said that every U.S. vehicle maker now has at least one woman
involved in designing, engineering or marketing its pickups and all say they
are adding more.

That, USA Today said, comes as more women are buying pickups. The proportion
of female pickup buyers is still small – about 11 percent – but is
up from just five percent in the mid-1980s, according to auto marketing and
consulting firm AutoPacific.

”Women bring a slightly different bias to what’s important,” Tom Baughman,
the head of Ford’s Tough Truck division, told USA Today.

The newspaper said that the female engineers serve up pickups with female drivers
in mind but, while making the trucks more comfortable and driver-friendly, they
leave in enough virility and strength for men.

”Until women came on board, we were missing an opportunity to emphasise ergonomics,
vehicle visibility and craftsmanship,” Baughman told the national newspaper.



Among the features that US Today said women have helped bring to pickups are
adjustable brake and accelerator pedals on Ford trucks to make driving easier
for smaller women and shorter men; additional, larger storage compartments;
smoother automatic transmissions and easier-to-shift manual transmissions; better
insulated passenger cabins with features like power windows, CD players and
leather upholstery; larger passenger cabins for carrying families and softer,
more car-like suspension settings rather than the stiffened set-up that gives
the traditional ‘bouncy truck’ ride.

”We’ve moved from a strictly work truck vehicle to a blend of function and
personal use,” Susan Dehne, Ford’s chief engineer for the Explorer Sport
and Sport Trac, told USA Today.

Baughman said that many subtle changes wouldn’t have been made without the
insistence and persistence of female engineers.

”We had an issue about the door handle of pickups,” he remarked.

”One woman engineer complained that the door broke her nails. Women spend
time and money getting their nails done, and they don’t want them to break off
on the door. So we made design changes to open the clearance on the handle.”

USA Today said that, until last year, no one kept a record of the number of
female automotive engineers. However, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)
began recording female membership in 2000 when a woman became SAE president
for the first time.

It says about three percent of its 80,000 members are women, the newspaper

Two years ago, six female engineers at Ford formed Women of Truck, a play on
the acronym WOT, which among automotive engineers means “wide-open throttle.”
Today, the group has grown to about 200, although not all of the women are engineers,
USA Today said.

The women working on trucks throughout the industry form a diverse group with
some raised on farms, where pickups were a way of life, while others were raised
in cities, where they had little or no contact with pickups. Some love trucks.
Others love engineering, and they see truck design as challenging, the newspaper

To view related research reports, please follow the links

world’s car manufacturers: A financial and operating review

Car and Light Truck Outlook – Segment analysis and forecasts to 2003 (download)