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They listened! VW to reintroduce steering wheels with physical buttons

Car companies have recently taken to making changes to their products that could not be more accurately described than saying they are “reinventing the wheel”. From Cadillac introducing sensors, motors and screens and to their steering wheels to power their SuperCruise autonomous system to Tesla cutting away half of it to create the “yoke”, there is no shortage of different takes to steering wheels lately. But that can sometimes backfire.

First it was Tesla offering a regular steering wheel as an option to the Plaid trim cars, who originally come with the novel interpretation that was criticised for being unintuitive for manoeuvring and not suitable for a time where we still have to drive our cars. And now it is Volkswagen’s turn, who has committed to moving away from the touch sensitive panels introduced in their latest models after a big pushback from customers and reviewers about the lack of feedback and constant miss clicks.

In a recent LinkedIn post, Thomas Schäfer, head of Volkswagen, brought an update describing the company’s commitment to electrification and customer satisfaction. To expand on the latter, he said: “We are sharpening our portfolio and our design, plus creating a new simplicity in operating our vehicles. For example, we are bringing back the push-button steering wheel! That’s what customers want from VW.”

This is hardly a surprise. The touch panels made their way into some of VW’s most important vehicles, which compete in segments so hot that a mistake like this could become very expensive. The Golf R, which we’ve reviewed back in July, is one to come to mind. Moving back to physical buttons should solve a big part the interior problems of an otherwise great car, especially because a steering wheel with such setup already exists. The 2023 revision can’t come soon enough.

It is good to see another brand listening to customers and critics alike and being quick to react on something that was not well received. This change should also rollout to other brands in the group, and some models currently being updated could skip the touch panels entirely. We know screens and panels in cars are here to stay, but this is definitely a step in the right direction, and I personally hope other brands follow the same path. It would not be the first time other carmakers could learn a thing or two from Volkswagen.

Source: Thomas Schäfer / LinkedIn

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