Ford Discovers Consumer Preference for Knobs


The Detroit Bureau

Ford Motor Co. plans to put knobs for vol­ume and sta­tion tun­ing back on its radios, as part of its MyTouch sys­tem, as it redesigns mod­els like the Ford Focus and Lin­coln MKS.

Ford isn’t alone in try­ing to clear up dash­board confusion.

Ford, like sev­eral other automak­ers, has real­ized con­sumers pre­fer but­tons and knobs for basic func­tions like tun­ing and tem­per­a­ture control.

After get­ting ham­mered in recent qual­ity reports for the con­fus­ing and dif­fi­cult set up of its MyFord Touch and My Lin­coln Touch sys­tems, Ford plans to put knobs for vol­ume and sta­tion tun­ing back on its radios as it redesigns mod­els like the Ford Focus and Lin­coln MKS.

While Ford has been work­ing to improve the func­tion­al­ity of MyFord Touch, it isn’t alone when it comes to deal­ing with con­vo­luted info­tain­ment sys­tems. The recently intro­duced Acura RDX was panned for a lack of a tun­ing knob on its enter­tain­ment system.

Addi­tion­ally Mer­cedes’ COMAND, BMW’s iDrive, Chrysler’s UCon­nect and other sys­tems have all been crit­i­cized recently for con­fu­sion related to their user inter­faces . In fact, the 2012 J.D. Power 2012 Ini­tial Qual­ity Study noted an over­all drop in con­sumer sat­is­fac­tion scores was due pri­mar­ily to issues with info­tain­ment systems.

A few years ago, BMW fol­lowed Ford’s lead with the intro­duc­tion a new touchscreen-based sys­tem and was just as quickly crit­i­cized for prob­lems with its user inter­face. BMW has been steadily mak­ing improve­ments to the sys­tem, includ­ing adding knobs and but­tons to the system.

Con­sumer Reports noted issues with Cadillac’s CUE sys­tem as well as MyFord Touch in its April issue.

“We’ve found Cadillac’s CUE and the MyFord/MyLincoln Touch sys­tems to be par­tic­u­larly frus­trat­ing,” the mag­a­zine noted. “Com­mon gripes are com­pli­cated menus, touch screens that are slow to respond, touch-sensitive but­tons that are fussy and impre­cise, and small dis­play fonts and but­tons that are hard to quickly read and access.”

Among the most dif­fi­cult sys­tems out is the info­tain­ment inter­face devel­oped for the new Toy­ota RAV4-EV. It doesn’t even offer a vol­ume knob on the radio, users instead hav­ing to deci­pher which tiny icon brings down a vir­tual vol­ume slider bar. Worse, if a dri­ver makes the mis­take of turn­ing their atten­tion back to the road for even a moment, the slider vanishes.