There’s a great struggle in all product design between maintaining something that works and trying to improve or advance a user’s experience. This is especially true in automotive interior design, where any change that removes a user’s attention can create a safety risk. Volkswagen’s zeal in replacing buttons was particularly off-putting and now the company is trying to undo some of the damage.
If there’s one outcome of Volkswagen’s Dieselgate experience I hope persists, it’s the company’s sudden ability to reflect on its own mistakes in a timely and public manner, which was seemingly impossible for the company to do under CEO Martin Winterkorn. Today we’ve got the current CEO owning up to some shortcomings in interior design with a refreshing frankness.
Speaking of refreshing frankness, former Nissan-Renault boss Carlos Ghosn is suing his old company, Hyundai’s CEO says his company might be the next domino to fall in the charging plug wars, and Maserati is apparently trying to horn in on our business model.
VW Used A ‘Room-Sized’ Spreadsheet To Fix Its Interior Problems
I’m not going to use this space to jump on Volkswagen for its weird interior decisions because:
- It’s not just Volkswagen! Most automakers are moving to touchscreens over buttons.
- The company is trying to fix its problems.
If anything, this post is in praise of new Volkswagen CEO Thomas Schäfer for his refreshing honesty. First, though, let’s review the problem.
Automakers are moving to touchscreens both because they are familiar interfaces for most of our daily lives now, and because they’re cheaper and easier than installing a lot of buttons/switches/nobs. With the introduction of the ID-line of vehicles, VW quickly embraced the Tesla-inspired screen design and jettisoned a lot of useful buttons and switches. As we discussed when we reviewed the VW ID.Buzz, too many operations were moved to the touchscreen or unlit buttons, resulting in some extreme annoyances.
Autocar did a great interview with Schäfer during the launch of the new Tiguan and got him to admit to a lot of mistakes, which he says the new Tiguan will partially remedy:
Asked if the unconventional interior arrangements introduced under his predecessor Herbert Diess had threatened Volkswagen’s standing among loyal customers, Schäfer said they “definitely did a lot of damage”.
He added: “We had frustrated customers who shouldn’t be frustrated. So we’ve spent a lot of time now – working through really systematically – on what all the functions are that a customer usually touches when using a vehicle.
“We worked through this with a massive team. It took us quite a bit of time. It was an Excel spreadsheet as big as a room, but you have to do that.”
I think the big question here is: Why didn’t you do this the first time? This seems like an example of the design team getting too far ahead of the user. He goes further and, again, credit to Autocar for getting this all down:
“Once you have it, don’t touch it again. Bloody leave it. Don’t confuse our customers every time a new model comes out and something is completely different. Optimise it. Bring into the future. But don’t change buttons from here to there, to there and here. At Volkswagen, we were always great for sitting in the car and you know where everything is immediately, intuitively.
Hell yeah. My friend had an Mk4 Golf and I loved the way all the backlit red and blurple buttons looked. It was ahead of its time and I’m hopeful VW is working its way back to that.
Former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn Sues Nissan For More Than $1 Billion
I was in Montreal this weekend and was trying to explain to my daughter that we were under a slightly different set of rules because Canada is a different country. She definitely noticed that most people were speaking French.
When former Nissan-Renault CEO/Chairman Carlos Ghosn escaped Japan in a box, he knew he wanted to end up in Lebanon for numerous reasons, but the biggest reason was that there was little chance he’d get sent back to Japan in cuffs. In Lebanon, Ghosn is one of the most famous business leaders of all time.
Unsurprisingly, Ghosn is suing Nissan and a number of individuals in the company over his sudden arrest and the alleged defamation that follow. Reuters has seen the lawsuit and filed this report with some of the details, although it’s fairly light:
The May 18 lawsuit accuses Nissan along with two other companies and 12 named individuals of crimes including defamation, slander and libel, and fabricating material evidence.
I’m no expert in the Lebanese legal system, but I’m curious what kind of standing Ghosn has to sue Japanese citizens over something that seems to have happened almost entirely in Japan. At the same time, Ghosn is a fugitive who cannot travel outside of Lebanon, maybe ever.
Who is wrong and who is right here is a matter of perspective, but it seems like it’ll get way nastier before it gets resolved.
Hyundai To Join Tesla’s NACS Charging Standard?
Hyundai Motor Company’s CEO, Jaehoon Chang, is the latest to considering joining GM and Ford by adopting the Tesla-created NACS charging standard. The safe bet seemed to be Stellantis as the third major company to fall, but Chang has opened the door. (Actually, while writing this it turns out it’s Rivian, more on that soon).
From another Reuters report, here’s what Chang told analysts at the automaker’s investor day:
Jaehoon Chang, who is also Hyundai’s president, said the company would consider joining the alliance of automakers shifting to Tesla’s standard, but that it would have to determine that was in the interest of its customers.
One issue, he said, is that Tesla’s current network of Superchargers does not allow for the faster charging Hyundai’s electric vehicles can achieve on other chargers.
“That’s what we will look into from the customer’s perspective,” Chang told analysts at the automaker’s investor day.
This is technically true. V3 Tesla Superchargers offer a charging rate that maxes out at 250 kW, compared to 350 kW for the fastest CCS chargers. However, in my experience it’s rare to see anything above 200 kW at any charger in this country. For various complex reasons I’m not going to get into at the moment, batteries don’t charge equally over time and stations can’t always deliver maximum charge to each charger.
What matters most about charging, right now, is that a station has available chargers and all work when you arrive. In that way, Tesla us crushing it with Superchargers.
Maserati Is Going To Membership!
For various reasons, we’re a big fan of the membership model here at The Autopian. It’s therefore exciting to see Maserati doing the same. I’m just going to quote liberally from the company’s press release:
Maserati is thrilled to introduce Tridente, the brand’s first-ever membership program that will provide its fans, clients and multi-garage owners access to exclusive editorial contents, curated travelogues, previews of new products and collections as well as bespoke experiences inspired by that unique modern Italian luxury that defines the Trident’s soul.
As Maserati’s first integrated loyalty initiative, Tridente has encapsulated its five fundamental pillars – editorial storytelling, Maserati exclusives, cultural encounters, curated driving experiences and international events – in the Tridente app, combining the rich heritage of Maserati with the ease of modern technology, where the only requirement to enter the club is being a passionate lover of the Italian brand.
Maserati Tridente offers three membership tiers covering different levels of brand loyalty: a Blu tier for all Trident fans and car enthusiasts, a Platinum tier for Maserati clients including owners of GranTurismo, MC20 or MC20 Cielo spyder while Diamond is the most exclusive tier, only accessible to owners of the ultra-limited super sports car Project24 or collectors of the high-performance single-seater GT2 car.
It’s no Vinyl/Velour/Rich Corinthian Leather, but it’s pretty good. I also didn’t realize that we shared so many fundamental pillars with Maserati. Editorial Storytelling!
The Big Question?
What was the peak of interior car design from a usability standpoint? I’d say my E39 is pretty much perfect circa 2003.
Photos: Nissan, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Maserati
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