Recently, Ford (Fortune 500) made a surprising announcement: It is adding radio knobs to its hi-tech component control system MyFord Touch. That's a retreat from cutting-edge to old technology -- a man-bites-dog scenario you don't often see in the auto business. And don't expect to see it any more often in the future. ,
Here's the background: In attempting to reduce driver distraction and get a jump on competitors, Ford had introduced a voice- and touch-screen system for audio, navigation, and other functions. But drivers found the new system confusing, and Consumer Reports issued a withering report on its functionality. So Ford decided to listen to popular concern and go backwards: It will now make it possible to control volume and frequency with the twist of a knob. "Familiar and easy-to-use knobs are exceptionally good ways for drivers to control in-car entertainment systems," says Kelley Blue Books' Jack Nerad. "They make for less distraction and less frustration, and that translates into more convenience and improved safety."
What's next? Are we going to see a return to ribbon speedometers, hub-mounted transmission buttons, or three-on-a-tree gear shifters? Not likely. In fact, the industry is moving in a different direction; many of the features that drivers of a certain age find familiar are dying out or already dead. Here's a partial list:
The scrap heap is piled high with lousy cars. But a few famous flops deserve a little reconsideration.