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Attention Automakers: Never Get Rid of Volume Knobs

Here’s something you should never do if you manufacture cars: get rid of volume knobs. Never do it, never consider doing it, never even think about doing it. If you do it, you will get an incredible amount of complaints from everyone who exists on this earth. It’s a bad idea. Stop considering it.

I say this because a few years ago, Honda got rid of volume knobs in its vehicles. In most cars, they exchanged it with this touch-sensitive volume slider, which I thought was pretty good, but which most people thought was kind of a nightmare. Then the complaints started.

It’s actually incredible how many people complain to me about this decision. Not to Honda, not to their dealer, but me. “Oh,” they say, “you’re into cars? Well let me tell you about my volume knob.” Then they insist on going on a diatribe about how difficult it is to turn up the volume in their Pilot or Accord, or whatever. I cannot imagine the customer commitment department at Honda. I bet they have a person there just to take volume knob complaints.

These complaints got so loud and so frequent that Honda finally gave in: At a recent Honda press event, when showing off an updated version of one of their models (an HR-V, if I recall correctly), the Honda people announced that the volume knob was back. The crowd of journalists chuckled, all knowing it had been the chief complaint with Honda’s vehicles for the last few years.

And so, automakers, this isn’t something you want to monkey with. People want to turn up their volume in the easiest way possible, which involves simply moving their hands over, grabbing a knob and twisting it. They don’t want plus or minus buttons, they don’t want a slider, they don’t want anything on a screen, and they certainly don’t want any changes. And so, you should learn from Honda’s mistake, and stay the course. The course of volume knobs.

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  1. I’m actually fine with volume buttons (though they are slower to operate than knobs, I don’t see that as a big problem), but the most annoying thing automakers could make is a stereo tune button. When I change my station from 95.5Hz to 100Hz for example, usually what stereo knobs do is change instantly. With the buttons however, it’s exercising your fingers. It takes forever just to change the frequency. While you might argue that you can just hold the button, my Mazda2 is unable to do such a thing and as a result, it’s very infuriating to operate.

  2. Don’t forget Cadillac also got rid of their knobs with the CUE system. Not sure if they fixed that or not but the XTS which started CUE has an infuriating touch-sensitive volume slider that jumps all over the place.

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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