One of the biggest complaints BMW customers had with recent models was the lack of physical buttons. The trend started with the BMW i4 and iX, and quickly expanded to all new BMW cars powered by iDrive 8. Arguably, the biggest issue with the reduction of physical buttons inside the cabin is the added two-three steps to achieve simple tasks, such as adjusting the air conditioning. Other buttons, such as the programmable ones (shortcuts) were also moved inside the large curved display, and that’s something that customers are complaining about.

Less Switches In Future BMW Cars

But unfortunate, that trend is not about to stop. In a roundtable today with Adrian Van Hooydonk, Head of BMW Group Design, we learned that future reduction of physical buttons is likely to continue. Yet, BMW cars won’t become switchless in the future. “Less switches, but not switchless,” Van Hooydonk told us. “Because we do realize that for certain functions, there is something very satisfying about a very distinct movement On/Off.”

Of course, we asked the question: why remove some of these useful physical buttons? Van Hooydonk points out to the fac that modern cars are becoming more and more intelligent. And that means that certain functions can be either preempted by the car or they can be activated via voice commands.

“If you ask people, do you want to get rid of this switch?,” Van Hooydonk added. “Maybe that’s impossible question for them to answer. Typically, of course, BMW is a clever, technologically-oriented company. We invent new functions, almost weekly and typically new functions come with new switches.”

“So this actually sort of a constant debate inside the company,” the chief designer says. “Okay, yes, we want the new function. We want the new technology, that sounds good. Does it need a new switch? And so it’s a delicate balance. Because we do want our customers to be able to adjust the car to their personal settings and likings. But if you then offer them a switchboard that is for professional use, only. Then, they’re not going to do it and they’re not going to use it.Furthermore, we know from our cars already today how switches are used how often and when.”

Simplified Interior Designs

It’s not only the switches reduction that will take place inside the car as well. Van Hooydonk says that other interior parts could be reduced even more. Of course, that will align with the company’s sustainability goals and it might also simplify production processes. “If you can avoid a number of parts then there’s fewer parts that you have to recycle and get back into the system. If you can reduce complexity, recycling becomes easier.”

While the BMW Dee project will reveal some of this design strategy, we will have to wait until a new BMW Neue Klasse concept is introduced later this year. That particular concept car will be closer to a production vehicle and will give us a glimpse into both the exterior and interior choices for future BMWs.