QOTD: Time For A Luddite Trim Level?
In the endless rush to attract younger buyers, luxury car brands may have ended up alienating their traditional customer base – older buyers, specifically those old enough to collect social security – by implementing complex, technologically advanced features like touch screens and complicated infotainment systems. What if there were a way to opt-out?
Larry Vellequette of Automotive News has jokingly suggested a “Luddite” trim package for older buyers, which pairs traditional knobs and buttons with comfortable seating options. It may be a semi-satirical idea, but I am sure that plenty of older buyers would take well to it. I know of a few instances where older buyers have gone for the car that offers the least technology, even if it meant forsaking the brands they were traditionally loyal to.
That has meant traditional customers of Lincoln and Cadillac have shifted over to something like a Lexus ES350, because they found CUE or MyLincoln Touch to be too much of a burden. Bear in mind that these are the sort of people who find sending an email to be a great technological feat, and it’s not hard to understand their reluctance in embracing in-car computerization.
Vellequette notes that the resistance to touchscreens and their ilk is ultimately a futile pursuit. It’s also true that this demographic is literally a dying one, and the future of these brands will be with those who are technologically savvy. On the other hand, those with the means to buy new cars tend to be older. Perhaps the solution would be the ultimate automotive tech cliche – an iPad-like interface with a simple menu and easily recognizable icons. Though I’m not a “Mac Guy”, Apple products like the iPad and iPod seem to click with older users, with a minimum of futzing around required to operate them.
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The verdict is in-- we hate in-dash touchscreens. I don't know if I've ever seen such a unanimous opinion here. i I just bought a 2009 GTI. A new Golf would have been about the same payment for a longer term, so affordable. But it would have come with a touchscreen radio, one that takes four precise control inputs just to turn the bass up or down. That's unacceptable, and quite difficult when you're moving in three dimensions (stiff suspension+ bad pavement= vertical motion). Touchscreens are irritating even when you're not struggling to use them. In bright daylight (very bright, here in Colorado), they're too dim, but at night, it's like a video billboard drawing your attention away from the road. The geniuses who design this stuff in an ideally-lit office in a gloomy, sea-level climate such as Detroit or Tokyo have no clue at how dark or how bright it gets in this corner of the real world. Planning a long road trip with my 2013 Tiguan, I've actually made a custom shade from popsicle sticks and fabric to slip into the CD slot and obscure that damned screen at night. Then I'll only be distracted and enraged by the bright, garish LCD billboards polling up all over the place. Thirty years ago, we started closing down the drive-in theaters. Maybe someone knew that we would be installing the theater in our cars, not the other way around?