Memo to a young, new Saab – please keep the driver-focused dash

Last week I was on the road, which gave me my thrice-yearly opportunity to once again appreciate my hatred of the ubiquitous Australian rental car, the 2008 Toyota Camry.
Modern manufacturing has done many great things for the automobile, but the need for modern profitability has created one of the things I hate most of all – the left-or-right center console. Designers make the center stack so that it can be fitted in either right or left hand drive cars, they save a little bit of money and supposedly, people are happy.
The Camry has it, and plenty of other modern cars have it nowadays as well.
Autobloggers in the US are going ape-droppings over the Ford Fiesta at the moment as Ford are running a brilliant little marketing scam where they’ve only allowed a limited number into the country and people had to apply to drive them. Supposedly, it’s a great little car, and the car-bloggers queued up to create their own Fiesta moments. A few succeeded.
As with the Camry, these short-term Fiesta drivers will be faced with a generic left-or-right center console:
It’s not offensive.
My problem with it is that it’s impersonal. And whilst it may not be such an issue in a small car like the Fiesta, in a larger car like the Camry the buttons and dials to the far side of the console take a reasonable amount of reaching.
From the Saab 900 onwards, Saab curved their dashboards towards the driver. It was a simple change, but combined with superb ergonomics in terms of control placement, it was a change that made the driver’s life one heck of a lot more comfortable and enjoyable.
If you’re driving a car that’s meant to be driven, then the experience should be enjoyable. A driver’s car should be driver focused (which is one of Saab’s current brand pillars) and a Saab should always be a driver’s car.
Saab took the driver-focused cockpit first conceived in the Saab 900 to a new level when they released the Saab 9000, seen below in Aero form:
…..And they refined it further with the button dash layout in the Saab 9-3 and 9-5, with the 9-3 Sport Sedan version of 2003-2006 shown below:
New cars in the future means new designs and of course, Saab need to be profitable. I hope this need for cash flow doesn’t come in the form of a cheaper center console arrangement that takes the focus away from the driver.
Having seen the Saab 9-4x, I’m encouraged by the belief that this won’t be the case. The 9-4x featured an evolution of Saab’s driver-focused interior and I’m pretty sure it’ll be the interior treatment that’s used for the 2010 Saab 9-5 as well.
Nevertheless, Saab won’t hear it unless it’s said – the driver focused nature of the Saab interior is a major selling point. Please don’t change it unless those changes make it even better for the driver.

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