Car companies are constantly devising new ways to entice parents to buy their vehicles — but that usually means installing features like a built-in entertainment system or remote-controlled doors. Volvo has gone several steps further with its radical concept for child seat positioning in the upcoming XC90 plug-in hybrid sport utility vehicle. The “Excellence Child Seat Concept” replaces the front passenger bucket seat with a versatile child seat, something dramatically different than what we’re used to seeing in a family car. We think it’s pretty cool, but we have some major reservations about the concept, too.
The Volvo XC90 is a luxury crossover SUV with a $68,000 starting price, so it has a limited audience. We’re pretty certain it won’t replace the minivan or lower-priced SUVs as the family car of choice, but this child seat concept may make the XC90 more appealing to some wealthy suburbanites. The genius part of the design is the way the base of the child seat swivels around, making it easier to get your baby or toddler in and out of the car seat while you’re standing outside the vehicle. The seat also has a nifty drawer underneath for stowing diaper changing and feeding essentials while you’re on the go. Kids tend to come with a lot of “stuff,” especially for longer car trips, so having a place to stash those things seems like a pretty helpful design element.
We love that Volvo, in its press release on the concept, promotes extended rear-facing for children riding in motor vehicles, saying the company is committed to child safety and recommending that children be “rearward facing as long as possible (at least up to the age of 3 or 4).” That caveat aside, we’re left with some major trepidation about this design. Car seats are not recommended to be positioned in front row seating, due to the potential for injury (and, let’s face it, the likelihood of fatality) in a front-end collision. Volvo doesn’t address that concern in their press release, so we’re not sure whether or how it has remedied this issue.
Additionally, you may realize that replacing the front passenger seat with a child seat means that an adult passenger would – that’s right – be relegated to the back seat. Volvo counts this as a selling point for the concept, arguing that “being able to maintain eye contact with your child from the rear seat… would go a long way towards making life easier for parents taking their small child on a trip,” according to the press release. The Swedish automaker suggests that this kind of alternative seating arrangement may become more prevalent as the automotive industry moves ever closer to a world of autonomous cars. We don’t disagree that the future of car design is a rapidly changing scene, but we’re really concerned about moving forward into a world where parents are forced to take a literal back seat to their children. We are all for a supportive, connected parent-child relationship, but we’re also pretty sure it’s okay to break eye contact with your child once in a while. In fact, we feel it’s necessary for children to learn how to function without constant parental involvement, and practicing that skill with some fun toys in the back seat is a great starting point.
We also have to wonder: what will Volvo think of next for parents of twins?