Skip to main content

Volkswagen Is Bringing Back Physical Buttons

Buttons are just better

  • VW's CEO announced via LinkedIn the company would return to physical button controls on its steering wheels.
  • Touch-sensitive steering wheel controls are found on a number of VW models, including the electric ID.4 crossover.
  • No timeframe has been given for VW’s return to the world of buttons.

Volkswagen wants customers to love its products again, and it's starting out by getting rid of the touch-sensitive buttons we've come to regard as one of the biggest blights on its lineup. That's according to a LinkedIn post by VW's CEO, Thomas Schäfer, who announced the German automaker will begin phasing out steering-wheel-mounted capacitive touch controls found on a wide range of its models.

"Our industry is in the midst of a big transformation — what is crucial now from my point of view: listening carefully to our customers, learning and providing answers to the pressing questions of the time," wrote Schäfer.

While his comments largely focused on VW's march toward introducing more electric vehicles, the subject of buttons-versus-touch-controls was a surprising about-face. Finicky touch controls have frustrated many VW owners for years now.

"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," Schäfer stated.

These controls have often been criticized for being hard to operate without taking your eyes off the road. Without tactile feedback, it can be difficult to know if the right command was selected, and very often some commands have been selected accidentally. Who wants to turn the steering wheel heater on by accident on a 90-degree summer's day? We'll answer that: No one does.

Unfortunately, the post didn't mention if the finicky touch-sensitive volume and temperature control sliders will also get the ax, but we're hoping a fix for that is under consideration too.


Buttons stage a comeback in VW's lineup

In the U.S. market, VW's touch-sensitive steering wheel controls are found on vehicles such as the sporty Golf GTI hatchback, the Arteon midsize sedan, the Tiguan compact SUV and the electric ID.4 crossover. They've also been spotted in European-spec versions of the hotly anticipated ID. Buzz electric-powered throwback to the classic VW Microbus.

The U.S.-version of the ID. Buzz is scheduled to be revealed sometime in 2023, with sales starting in 2024. It will be interesting to see whether Schäfer's comments will lead to a change in the Buzz's cabin design despite it being so close to its launch in the U.S. No exact timeframe for this triumphant return of fingertip-friendly buttons was mentioned in the LinkedIn post but the long and short of it is: the sooner the better.

Edmunds says

Modern automotive tech is great, but so is realizing something doesn't need fixing when it ain't broke. Button controls can be more intuitive and easier to use while you're driving. VW has taken this to heart by promising to eliminate steering wheel touch controls.