Volvo Cars chose to site its Monitoring & Concept Center (VMCC) in California because of the state’s position as a consummate trend setter with its creatively-charged atmosphere and innovation excellence.
Thinking ‘outside-the-box’ has been second nature to Volvo Cars since it started making automobiles almost eight decades ago.
So, back in 1986, it made perfect sense to Volvo to become the first European car maker to set up a think-tank styling studio in trend-setting California.
“As a state of mind and way of life, California is a matrix of trans-cultural richness embracing huge human, racial, ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity,” says Lars Erik Lundin, General Manager of the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center in Camarillo, California.
“The collective energy of that human diversity, together with the state’s great climate and natural geography, has led to Californians living life out loud socially, politically and economically. This has made the state the ideal place to explore the future 10-30 years ahead –- a key part of our job at the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Centre.”
Some 34 million people currently live in California, the fifth or sixth most dynamic economy on the planet. California is also the premium U.S. auto market with over 31 million state-registered cars, trucks and motorcycles that represent around 10 percent of the total U.S. national car market.
In California it is very much okay to like cars, with over 85 percent of all trips in the state over 160 kilometers (100 miles) taken in private vehicles. Its citizens have massively embraced the machine that enhances their personal mobility.
The vast Californian freeway and interstate highway system was built during the second half of the last century to meet the demands of a growing population and expanding economic development. The auto dependency has led to lengthy and frequent congestion problems in major urban areas at any time of the day or week. The Federal Highway Administration says almost 50 percent of California’s urban interstates are carrying more traffic than they were designed to handle.
California has not slowed to a grinding halt yet. But people increasingly feel quality of life (always important in the state renowned for its fixation on keeping body, mind and soul ‘looking good’) is being seriously restricted by spending more hours stuck in traffic.
Efforts to clean California’s air have accelerated since the Clean Air Act of 1970. Amid demographic predictions of a rise in population to 60 million or more by 2040, environmentalism has grown in response to the pressing challenges of shrinking open space and pollution.
The powerful Californian Air Resources Board has pioneered many initiatives aimed at reducing emissions, including a proposed program under which 10 percent of new cars sold after 2009 must be hybrid gasoline-electric models. Designed to cut tailpipe emissions by at least 70 percent, the regulations give auto makers until 2009 to come up with the necessary technological changes or modifications.
Such challenges, together with California’s consumer focused culture, gives VMCC’s designers, engineers and socio-cultural mappers a unique insight into a future driven by the unabashed desire for unrestricted personal mobility and entertainment-oriented lifestyles. And stimulate fresh ideas about how to tackle such trends as the growing auto mobility of women and longer-lived people driving well into their ‘80s.
Says Lars Erik Lundin: “California’s bell-weather promise and the dreams and aspirations of its citizens stretch far beyond America’s shores. The way Californians live their lives and find new ways of enjoying themselves provides valuable lessons for shaping the look, performance and appeal of Volvo’s cars in a world changing at lightening speed.”
Volvo Car Corporation sold 415.000 cars in 2003 in more than 100 markets globally. Making cars since 1927 and employing 28,000 people, Volvo Car Corporation is a member of the Ford Premier Automotive Group.
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