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General Motors continues its Family-Friendly Commitment

By Isabel Kallman

2009ChevyTraverse.jpgIt comes as no surprise to me (and you too, I’m sure) that companies want to know what moms care about when it comes to goods and services. As I’ve written before, when a company or journalist asks me my opinion, heck, I offer tea and then proceed to talk their ear off. Because ultimately, moms’ opinions are value-based. It’s not just about whether it works for her. It’s about her kids and her friends’ kids. The ultimate winner here is every consumer, not just families.

So, when General Motors asked me to be their guest at the Chicago Auto Show, there was no way I was going to turn down the opportunity to have top management’s ear. During this trip, I was fortunate enough to spend quality time with the top executives of Chevrolet including a private dinner. The top guns at Chevy prodded our small group of parenting writers about what we and our friends care about. The conversations ranged from the micro-based such as the car needs of families to the macro, like the rising birth population.

Moreover, management’s enthusiasm for their craft and commitment to producing safe (but stylish!) cars at an affordable sticker price was inspiring. We heard about the “Garage Interviews” Chevy conducts when developing family-friendly cars. They visit with families across the country to better understand their needs, going as far as asking kids to show them how they climb in and out of vehicles, to see how kids really interact with multiple-row seating. One valuable insight Chevy gained (other than that kids are monkeys when they climb over seats) was that kids care about their own physical space, perhaps more than parents. We parents are accustomed to kids climbing all over us. Kids, though, battle for their spatial rights. MYSPACE, MYSPACE, MYSPACE! (ah, that’s what inspired that name!) As such, for Chevy, backseat roominess is a really big deal when it comes to designing family vehicles.

When it came time for Chevy to design their newest “family car,” the Traverse, they zeroed in on the vehicle characteristics that are the most appealing to families today: 1) roominess, and 2) fuel efficiency. It’s no wonder that the Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV) is a hottttt segment in the auto industry right now. The term CUV may not be ubiquitous, but I will bet money it will be soon.

During the press conference, Chevy’s Vehicle Line Director, Sue Wilson drove the Traverse on stage and introduced the CUV as her family elegantly piled out of the car one by one, unloading sporting gear and dance uniforms too from the cargo area. Her two teenage girls were actually in the third row which seats 6-foot adults rather than just kids (the car can seat up to 8!) Sue explained that in designing the Traverse, she took into consideration the direct needs of her family. Her attention to detail went right down to placing the back-up camera monitor on the review mirror rather than the navigation area.

When sitting in the floor model, Kristen Varelas of MotherProof showed me how the LATCH anchors were easy to access, a key feature that she always looks for. I had my own safety checklist, which included: Electronic Stability Control (StabiliTrak)? Check. Side-curtain air bags for three rows? Check. Air bag sensors? Check. Proactive Roll Avoidance? Check. Seatbelt pretensioners? Check. OnStar? Check.

All I’m waiting for now will be some important facts and figures: the sticker price and the fuel efficiency numbers. Those are expected to be released 60 days before the Traverse hits dealerships which is scheduled for the early autumn. The good news is that the same team behind the design and marketing success of the home-run Chevy Malibu (which inspired the Traverse’s styling) is driving the ship behind the Traverse so I would expect it to be marketed much along the same lines: “Quality for Value.”

Now, that’s family-friendly!

Here’s some reading by my new auto friends:


Isabel Kallman
About the Author

Isabel Kallman

Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.


Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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Excited to hear the Traverse has a back-up camera. Trippy but helpful!!