Volkswagen Is Bringing Back Physical Buttons In Cars Instead Of Screens

Volkswagen is making a significant U-turn in its approach to vehicle interiors, bringing back physical buttons in response to consumer feedback that criticized the touch screen controls and haptic-based steering wheel buttons introduced in recent models. The German automaker’s pursuit of modernization and electrification has led to a clash with user preferences, prompting a return to a more familiar and user-friendly design, starting with the new ID.2 concept.

Under former CEO Herbert Diess, Volkswagen adopted a Tesla-inspired strategy by centralizing controls on a large infotainment touch screen and replacing physical buttons on steering wheels with touch-sensitive capacitive buttons. However, this move generated frustration among customers, leading to a reassessment of the design strategy.

Volkswagen’s current CEO, Thomas Schäfer, acknowledged the damage done to the brand and emphasized the importance of listening to customer feedback. The reversal in design philosophy is evident in the ID.2 concept, where a row of physical, backlit buttons has been reintroduced below the touch screen. These buttons provide easy access to commonly used HVAC controls, accompanied by a manual volume button and a large center knob reminiscent of BMW’s iDrive system.

The emphasis on tactile feedback is evident in the design, with the inclusion of metal knurling on the buttons to allow occupants to feel them without diverting their attention from the road. Schäfer emphasized the need for consistency in design, urging the company not to confuse customers with drastic changes in button layouts with each new model.

This shift in design philosophy is not unique to Volkswagen, as several automakers have faced criticism for overly relying on touch screens. In a competitive market, particularly in regions like the United States, customer feedback is crucial for maintaining relevance. Volkswagen’s willingness to adapt and address consumer concerns suggests a commitment to staying attuned to market preferences and a strategic effort to regain consumer trust and relevance in the automotive industry.

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