You can't read about the Volkswagen ID.4 or the Mk8 GTI without two paragraphs worth of complaints about their poor interiors. The complaints aren't about the build quality or even the overall designs, but about their maddening ergonomics and switchgear. It's apparently gotten so bad that the Volkswagen CEO has now taken notice—and is even promising serious improvement.
"We had frustrated customers who shouldn't be frustrated," VW CEO Thomas Schäfer recently told Autocar. He even went as far as saying that these "frustrating" interiors "definitely did a lot of damage" among loyal customers.
What makes VW's current interior design language so frustrating? VW's newest products are currently filled with touch-sensitive buttons and sliders that rarely work properly, are difficult to operate, and feel cheap. Making matters worse, many of the buttons aren't even backlit, so you can't see them at night. Then there's the ID.4, which only has two window switches on the driver's door, with a separate button that shifts their controls between the front and rear windows. It's an overly complicated solution to a problem that didn't exist.
However, Schäfer claims that VW is carefully considering each button, switch, and touchscreen control to make sure they're not only intuitive but also feel nice. "Should it be a button? Should it be a switch? And then you can work on the aesthetics of it. When you do buttons, it's better to do few buttons, but really nice buttons—like an airplane: what are the haptics of it?"
He also said that continuity is important. Schäfer wants customers to feel at home in every Volkswagen product, so he doesn't want interior designs to change radically from generation to generation, as they did from the Mk7 to the Mk8 GTI, for instance.
One of the first global cars to benefit from this new interior design approach will be the next-generation 2024 VW Tiguan, whose interior was recently teased. The new Tiguan gets a massive new touchscreen infotainment system but it also gains a rotary dial on the center console—similar to Audi's old MMI system and BMW's iDrive—which is said to control volume and drive modes. The steering also mercifully regains physical buttons.
This is music to the ears of frustrated Volkswagen fans, who were disappointed by the brand's recent interior design switch. Volkswagen hears you and is making changes.
Got tips? Send 'em to firstname.lastname@example.org