The design of Volvo's uber-luxe XC90 Excellence Lounge Console Concept, introduced earlier this year at the Shanghai auto show, has inadvertently spawned the company's reinvention of the child seat.
A key feature of the Lounge Console Concept was removal of the front passenger seat to provide additional work, storage and infotainment space and amenities, as well as a more luxurious environment for the rear seat passenger.
According to Tisha Johnson, Chief Designer for interiors at Volvo Cars Concept and Monitoring Centre, the idea originated from a conversation with Volvo Cars’ owner Li Shufu when he reviewed the concept.
That conversation prompted the design team to re-imagine the way such a layout could be adapted to transport small children safely in cars in the future.
“We started by asking ourselves if we could make life easier for parents and safer for their children when it comes to the child seat experience," said Johnson.
"We focused on three key benefits: making it easier to get the child into and out of the child seat from an ergonomic and comfort perspective; providing the child with a safe rearward facing seating position that enables it to keep eye-contact with either the driver or the rear passenger; and, of course, including enough storage for those vital child accessories, such as diapers, bottles, wipes, and so on.”
The resulting concept enables the parent to swivel the seat counter-clockwise when seating the child and then lock the seat in a rearward facing position. It also provides storage for small items beside the seat and a storage space underneath for diapers, blankets, or other larger items and enough space for a tote bag at the front of the seat under the instrument panel.
The Excellence Child Seat Concept is based on and consistent with Volvo’s established safety position that small children should travel rearward facing as long as possible (at least up to the age of 3 or 4). The reason for that position is the lack of muscular strength in the necks of small children and their disproportionate head size and weight in relation to the body.
“For us the safety, convenience, and emotional factors outweigh everything else," said Johnson. "Being able to maintain eye contact with your child from the rear seat , or being able to keep a bottle warm in the heated cup holders in the XC90 Excellence, would go a long way towards making life easier for parents taking their small child on a trip."
No production plans have been announced but Johnson added, "Such alternative seating arrangements will become increasingly important as we move towards autonomous vehicles. We have always placed a great deal of importance on child safety, but this takes things to the next level.”