Japanese vs. American Car design

This is mundane and pointless, so it’s definately in the right forum.

I’ve noticed through some personal observation that there seems to be a quite noticable difference between the standard layout of an American car vs. a Japanese car, specifically in the interior.

  1. The headlights: In most american cars, the headlight switch is on the left side of the dash, between the steering column and the door. In most Japanese cars, it’s on the turn signal lever.

  2. Wipers: in most japanese cars, the wiper controls are on the right side of the steering column, opposite of the turn signal lever. In most american cars, it’s ON the turn signal lever.

  3. Emergency flashers: Japanese: on the dash, usually near the radio. American: on the column.

  4. The air conditioner. THIS ONE IS MY BIG PET PEEVE!!!
    In American cars, there are usually 3 levers or knobs. the first is fan speed, the second is temperature, and the third is the mode control… the mode control usually looks something like this:



What kind of stupid jargon is that?

On Japanese cars, you have a control for fan speed and one for temperature just like an american car. However, the mode control makes MUCH more sense:

first, there’s a selector to determine where the air blows, usually represented by pictures:

Face Face/Floor Floor Floor/Defrost Defrost

You then have another 2 controls. One turns the Air Compressor on and off
the other determines whether you are pulling air from outside or recirculating it.

As of late, some American cars have started using the pictures, but its the SAME DUMBED DOWN, UNVERSATILE CONTROLS!

Hows that for mundane?

First off, don’t oversimplify. In American cars, Ford, GM and Chrysler all have significant differences within their own models, much less among manufacturers.

Secondly, don’t forget European models. The French and the Scandinavians have designs all their own.

Little pictographs on the A/C may be fine, unless your vision isn’t great and one 1/3-inch graphic looks pretty much like the other. In that case, Norm, Max, Bi-level, etc. makes a lot more sense.

Some controls are dictated by the amount of space available. You’ll have a lot more success designing a pnaelhead for a 32-button radio/cassette/CD player for a Suburban’s dash than for a Corlla.

Let’s not forget digital instrument panels, which were touted in the 80s as the best thing for imparting loads of information at a glance – until the car manufacturers realized that analog displays were much more “intuitive” and that drivers considered it more important to know whether the gauge was trending higher or lower, not what the reading was at that split second.

Bottom line, there’s no “right” answer on how to lay out the instruments. Being left-handed, I have my own perferences and I never have had a car better laid out to what I wanted than my 1962 Chrysler.

I suppose it’s all in what one is used to but it’s my humble opinion that most American car models still have not pastered the art of ergonomics like the Asian manufacturers. Of course from a pure driving enthusiast’s point of view, nobody has beaten the Germans at this game yet. Though the Swedes are a very close match.

What QuickSilver said, absolutely!