What Matters in Car Design

As a consumer product, cars really have it all: engineered performance, fashionable styling, a sense of identity, tons of usability considerations, along with safety and environmental balances.  The question is which of these things each consumer prioritizes in their purchase decisions - and which contribute to real satisfaction.  Don Norman argues that car reviewers are "stuck in the past", obsessed with performance driving and visual styling, and I agree - those two aspects are vastly over-emphasized, compared to how they'll serve the driver in everyday use.  Who cares if your car does 0-60 in 5 seconds, if you're never going to race it?  It's more likely that the usability of the more mundane features, or less sexy attributes like reliability and fuel economy, will contribute to long-term satisfaction.  Fortunately, these aren't entirely overlooked - Hipstomp writes at Core77 that these things are being quietly emphasized in car design.  "Quietly" because it's just not culturally preferred to buy a car for these reasons - I've taken some flack for my next car being a minivan - but the designers know that drivers will be glad they did in the long term, and hopefully come back for more!

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