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Volkswagen Listens to Drivers: Brings Back Physical Controls in ID. 2all

Volkswagen's journey towards modernization takes a detour as the ID. 2all concept reverts to traditional buttons in response to customer feedback

A Shift Back to Physical Controls

Volkswagen is charting a new course in vehicle interior design, one that harmonizes the electrification of its lineup with user-friendly features. This significant shift is evident in the updated interior of the ID. 2all concept, which marks a departure from the industry’s recent fascination with touch controls. Volkswagen’s journey towards modernizing its vehicle powertrains has not only been about embracing electric technology but also about aligning its design ethos with current trends. Minimalism has been a key trend, often seen in the form of sleek, buttonless interfaces.

However, this transition towards touch screens and capacitive buttons, particularly in the infotainment and steering wheel areas, hasn’t resonated well with Volkswagen’s customer base. The feedback from owners has been clear and strong, prompting the German automaker to rethink its strategy.

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Learning from Feedback

The journey towards this new design approach wasn’t straightforward. Under the guidance of former CEO Herbert Diess, Volkswagen had attempted to emulate Tesla’s design, centralizing most controls within the infotainment system and replacing traditional steering wheel buttons with touch-sensitive alternatives. This strategy, initially thought to be a step forward, ended up causing frustration among customers. It was a learning curve for the company, highlighting the importance of user experience over technological novelty.

Thomas Schäfer, the current CEO, has acknowledged the missteps, understanding the need to repair the brand’s reputation. As a response to the consumer feedback, Volkswagen has made noticeable changes in its latest concept, the ID. 2all.

The ID. 2all Concept: A New Direction

Darius Watola, Volkswagen’s interior designer, shared insights with Autocar on the new approach taken with the ID. 2all concept. This vehicle represents a pivotal moment for Volkswagen, showcasing a design that’s more in tune with customer preferences. A notable change is the reintroduction of physical buttons. These are not just any buttons, but backlit ones, thoughtfully placed below the touch screen for easy access. They offer quick control over frequently used functions like the HVAC system.

Moreover, Volkswagen has added a manual volume button and a prominent central knob, reminiscent of BMW’s iDrive system, for additional control. This blend of traditional and modern elements underlines Volkswagen’s commitment to both innovation and user comfort.

The attention to detail extends to the tactile feel of these controls, with metal knurling allowing users to operate them by touch alone, without diverting their eyes from the road. Schäfer’s directive, as he stated in an interview, is clear: prioritize optimization and user familiarity over constant, confusing changes.

Responding to Market Trends and Consumer Demands

Volkswagen’s pivot is not occurring in isolation. There’s a broader industry realization that the rush to digitize all controls, effectively turning car dashboards into oversized tablets, hasn’t always met consumer expectations. The return to physical controls, a move also seen in other automakers, underscores a more nuanced understanding of driver needs and preferences.

Especially for markets like the United States, where Volkswagen is keen on strengthening its presence, adapting to customer feedback is vital. The move with the ID. 2all concept suggests that Volkswagen is not just listening but actively responding to its customers. This strategy of blending the familiar with the new might just be the key to Volkswagen maintaining its relevance and appeal in a rapidly evolving automotive landscape.

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