The Rental Car Test – Every Design MUST Pass the Test
I just picked up a Hyundai Santa Fe from Hertz at DTW. My plane from Atlanta to Detroit was delayed by weather enough to have me picking up the Santa Fe in the dark. Well, Santa Fe did an outstanding job passing the rental car test. You know the one. This is where you pick up your car at the rental place, get in and you can find the ignition easily, adjust the steering wheel, mirrors, seats, climate control and radio without thinking hard about it. Oh yeah, and you can do it in the dark.
Keep it Simple, Stupid… Still Rings True
This is a challenge that many car stylists and designers fail to consider when they are designing their new products. But ease of use is a hugely important thing not only to rental car drivers but to everybody driving a car day-to-day. No-one wants a car that is difficult or confusing to drive and the rental car test helps guarantee ease of use.
Porsche Cayenne Engineers/Designers Did Not Achieve Ease of Use
We have to believe that no product development group ever strives for a vehicle that is tough to use, but an example of an engineering team that was oblivious to the rental car test is the Porsche Cayenne team. Picking up a Cayenne at Dallas/Fort Worth in the evening proved to be a daunting test. Basic functions like the cliimate controls, navigation and audio controls were confusing. To drive off safely in a Cayenne really takes several minutes of sorting throught the controls and getting things set up. For a person who is a novice in vehicles with high end features, they should ask for a vehicle other than the Cayenne if the friendly person at the rental car desk offers it.
Rental Car Test Impossible for BMW with iDrive to Pass… Failure Guaranteed
The poster child for failing the rental car test must be any BMW with the iDrive system. While we understand the desire to eliminate clutter caused by a plethora of additional features on cars like high end BMWs, the iDrive solution is at best a challenge and at worst totally indecipherable. BMW has worked to simplify the system over the years, but still they have alienated buyers who really just want to enjoy the driving experience of the Ultimate Driving Machine and not have to focus so much on which menu to select to change between AM and FM. If you study the photo above, you also see the equally indecipherable power seat controls. Designed by the same team that brought you reverse Polish notation with Hewlett-Packard calculators back in the early ’70s, these can’t be figured out without careful study. Certainly beyond the ken of a person picking up a car rental.
AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Research had the BMW 7-Series as the lowest ranked car for owners being “completely satisfied”. When diving into the data the reason could be traced back to the iDrive system. Please, no more iDrives!