Amid brands butting heads over which will sell a car to the newest generation of car buyers, Chevrolet is taking a different approach with its Equinox crossover by marketing it to the “early bird special” crowd instead of the up-all-nighters.
“We are thrilled that GM is interested in better understanding the unique needs of aging drivers,” said Elin Schold Davis, project coordinator of the Older Driver Initiative at the American Occupational Therapy Association. Chevrolet made a point to highlight the Equinox’s ease of access with seat height designed to require minimal bending and its standard backup camera.
“We are a car-dependent nation and want to maintain our driving independence as long as we can. Vehicles that use universal designs can make it easier and safer for people to have and enjoy personal transportation well into old age,” she said.
Younger buyers are having an influence on automakers and Chevrolet is no exception with both the Sonic and Spark aimed squarely at new drivers, but the fact remains that the over 50 crowd controls the lion’s share of car buying power. According to a recent study by J.D. Power and AARP, people in that age demographic now buy six of every 10 new cars sold.
“We never design vehicles specifically for older consumers, but we increasingly integrate design solutions that work for all users, regardless of age,” said Carl Wellborn, GM senior staff engineer and project manager. “Designs that make life easier for older users also work for younger users. Universal design is the key to unlocking usability solutions and implementing them successfully.”
The term “universal design” was particularly important in the Equinox’s design. While it’s meant to be an easily accessible vehicle, Chevrolet also provisioned for other demographics, like parents with small children. Equipped with rear seats that can slide forward, the crossover offers access to kids in a carseat.
Still, Chevrolet admits that the majority of design influences are geared in much the same direction as a big-button calculator.
“Simple interfaces and large, easy-to-understand controls like those in the Equinox are hallmarks of universal design,” said Eero Laansoo, human factors engineer at GM Design Quality Integration. “Having intuitively grouped controls that are easy to reach and easy to see day or night is particularly beneficial for drivers who suffer from age-related issues like arthritis and diminished vision, but will be appreciated by drivers of all ages.”