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Ford Authority

Poll: What Do You Think About Ford Phasing Out Physical Climate Controls?

In recent years, a number of automakers – including Ford – have been working diligently to phase out physical controls of all sorts, including those that control climate features, specifically. Instead, those same controls have been moving to the infotainment screens of newer vehicles – in some cases, they stay clearly visible and easy to reach on those screens at all times, though in other cases, one has to click through at least a menu or two to find them. Needless to say, this change has proven to be quite controversial with consumers.

In fact, there are many vehicle owners and even critics that have spoken out on multiple occasions about the disappearance of physical climate controls, claiming that this is a safety issue more than anything else. After all, it’s generally easy to adjust physical climate controls without taking one’s eyes off the road, at least, once we get used to their location. When those same controls are buried behind multiple menus on a screen, well, that’s a different story.

This is something that owners of newer versions of vehicles like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Ford Mustang, Ford Escape, Lincoln Nautilus, and Ford Explorer have had to contend with, though interestingly enough, some automakers – like Volkswagen – intend to bring back physical controls. Additionally, in 2026, Europe’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) will require that new vehicles have a certain amount of physical controls present to earn its top safety rating, to boot.

Thus, all of this controversy raises an important question – what do you, Ford Authority reader, think about The Blue Oval’s migration toward digital climate controls and away from physical ones? Is this something that you don’t necessarily mind and tend to get the hang of after a while, or do you find yourself taking your eyes off the road to do simple things like change the fan speed or temperature inside a vehicle? Let us know how you feel in the poll below!

We’ll have more on Ford’s migration to soft-touch controls soon, so be sure and subscribe to Ford Authority for 24/7 Ford news coverage.

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Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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Comments

  1. Kevin

    I just bought a 2022 Ford edge. Most of you know is a 12 inch screen. I have exactly 2 knobs and six physical buttons rewind, play, fast-forward. Like WTF!? There’s not even a CD. I’d rather have a max AC Or heated seat button. Ford really needs to think What’s most important?

    Reply
    1. Bob W

      Why did you buy it then?

      Reply
      1. Kevin

        12 inch screen, AWD, 3500 towing, heated steering wheel and seats, lane centering, panoramic sunroof, wireless charging, more room that my fusion. The list goes on what’s your concern?

        Reply
    2. Graham

      2018 was the last year for CD players if that’s what your alluding to. But does no one remember the “haptic” controls that Ford experimented with? Screens crash; buttons and knobs do not. My 2018 Fiesta SE (bought new), has all I need. Knobs, buttons, a CD player (!), good speakers, great AC and heat, SoundScreen windows that provide a quieter ride (and also a 5spd MT.) I get the impression from Mr. Farley that he’s “dancing as fast as he can” given the EV messes. But for real determination to destroy a company, read up on the latest on Chrysler and the Auburn Hills Tech center… I grew up in Detroit and I’m more than a little pessimistic.

      Reply
      1. Kevin

        Alluding? They wasted 3 out of 6 on buttons that have no use for.

        Reply
    3. John

      I have a 2020 Edge with the previous 8” screen and it has no CD player. I think 19 was the last year they had them. I don’t miss it either, since it’s not 1997 anymore.

      Reply
  2. JE

    Physical controls are and will always be better, more secure and easier to handle.

    Reply
  3. Tigger

    Anything to save a few pennies while driving away customers.

    Reply
  4. John

    SOME physical controls are nice to still have in a vehicle, but I’m not against the screens in general.

    Personally, I think the bigger screw up is making so many of these screens look like some high school kid glued them onto the dash of his 1998 Honda Civic. Take the time and effort to incorporate these screens into the dash naturally.

    Reply
  5. Fordfan

    I hate it. I love that GM is adding redundant physical controls in addition to its stylish touchscreens.

    Reply
    1. Terry Sawchuk

      Well that’s nice to know. Maybe I’ll look there next time, but wait Mary is getting rid of Android Auto…. Can’t win

      Reply
  6. Michael Salemi

    Here’s a &^%$ good reason to NOT have all “infotainment” based controls. My Maverick just had a problem (solved with a Ford TSB but I lived with it for a bit until we could figure it out) where the screen woke up BLACK. Nothing on it. ONLY the last radio station playing, no other infotainment screen actions available. So, NO THANK YOU. NOBODY gets the software correct all the time so STOP TRYING TO! Leave the buttons and switches as is.

    Reply
    1. JJL

      Just had a 14″ PC screen go black. At least they are set up for an external monitor to keep on trucking! Its going to happen to vehicles with no backup.

      Reply
  7. Jim

    Quit designing for teenagers. They don’t buy cars/trucks. We oldsters buy the vehicles. Totally confused with the controls. Not even classes to demonstrate and who wants that crap anyway.

    Reply
    1. RangerLover

      I’m 30 and find touchscreens on cars incredibly simple and limited compared to any smartphone. The fact you think CLASSES would be necessary for this elementary level of interaction with a career is really concerning to hear. Stop letting life sunset you and yelling at change. Embrace it and learn, because the only constant in life is change.

      To be clear, I agree with physical knobs being the superior option in terms of safety, but this level of entitlement and whining continues to define you “oldsters ‘

      Reply
      1. Gary.virginia

        Why? Why do we always need to be disrespectful. If your lucky you will live long enough and you to will dislike when life change. Jim continue to whine my friend, And may the force be with you.

        Reply
        1. RangerLover

          Aren’t you older generations supposed to be less sensitive and not afraid of confrontation? Really thought, what specifically do you find disrespectful?

          I genuinely find it concerning someone suggests that classes would be necessary to operate a car with touchscreens that mind you children are able to learn and master. This person operates a 2 ton machine capable of killing pedestrians… Their comment makes me think they may need to lose their license.

          I also genuinely believe change is unavoidable and inevitable and will happen whether you or I like it or not. The sooner you accept and embrace this, the more content with life you can be.

          Reply
  8. Brian

    Physical controls for the most commonly used things are much better than screens. Screens are not as responsive, occasionally requiring more than one press to accomplish something. Additionally, there is no feedback like physical controls, so you end up taking your eyes off the road to look at the screen to make sure you accomplished what you wanted.

    I am not opposed to screens for infotainment purposes, but HVAC and other commonly used controls should remain physical.

    We’ll be in the market for a new vehicle later this year. The Ford Explorer was originally at the top of my list, as I was looking forward to the 2025 refresh. But, the lack of physical controls along with the ridiculous price ($58K just to equip one with features I’ve had on vehicles going back to 1997) are turnoffs and may have us look at other brands for the first time.

    Reply
  9. Paul Hengesbach

    Searching the screen while traveling is a distraction you touch one area not what you want you look again maybe touch right spot especially fan control on 2021 edge not real good layout in screen

    Reply
  10. Richard Wylie

    I don’t mind having climate control options on the screen but physical controls will always be my first choice. Its much simpler once you are familar with the physical contols and far less distracting than having to read a screen.

    Reply
  11. David Thomas

    🇬🇧. I understand that in the EU Parliament there been concerns over safety with so much being placed on these ever increasing screen sizes and what they ask the driver to do and the lack of concentration.
    Personally I agree…working the radio now needs a science degree. You don’t need to look for nob..its just these….Oh, and if a screen goes wrong ££$$€€¥¥.

    Reply
  12. Johnnie F.

    I’m waiting on a 2024 Nautilus and the strip across the bottom screen for the climate controls is just alright with me. ~

    Reply
    1. Brian

      love Ford products…. but not those made in China.

      Reply
  13. Gary Rumrill

    My 2023 Lexus RX350 has knobs for the driver and passenger temperature controls and full time screen icons for other climate functions. That is a very acceptable compromise for me.

    Reply
    1. Mf

      I could live with this setup.

      Fact is, these touch screen contoare just cost cutting and everyone sees it.

      Reply
  14. JC

    How many accidents have to occur before physical controls are brought back? A/C and radio should absolutely not be anything other than physical controls. I personally would walk away from any brand vehicle that doesn’t have them. I’m sure that there are many more that are fed up with these ridiculous screens. What focus group ever said that putting functions on multiple layer deep touch screens is a good idea when distracted driving is a major cause of accident and deaths in vehicle crashes? One of the dumbest latest ideas.

    Reply
    1. Scott

      …. I couldn’t agree with you more, JC!!
      ” don’t use your cell phone, don’t yell at kids, don’t put on your make-up,
      but please, feel free to flip through 132 menus to turn up the AC…”

      Reply
      1. RangerLover

        To be clear… It’s laws and law enforcement telling you not to do these things, not manufacturers. More over, you should not be fiddling with a knob OR a screen while driving…

        Reply
  15. bob fisher

    if you’re going to phase out physical controls you better up your warranty because they will eventually fail and a lot sooner than physical controls. better yet have sync fully control all of them and not some. then you don’t have to physically mess with a 12″ screen while trying to drive

    Reply
    1. RangerLover

      Do you have any data behind this or are you spouting off baseless claims? There haven’t been enough generations of cars with screens, especially those designed in the modern age to control everything, to demonstrate its long-term reliability in any direction as far as I know…

      Reply
      1. Tigger

        So it’s OK to use customers as beta testers potentially risking theirs and others safety?

        Reply
        1. RangerLover

          Nice strawman argument, did I ever claim that it was? Believe it or not, beta testing is done before it is released before the general public.

          Long term reliability of a screen vs a physical knob is not a safety aspect, but you better believe that when physical knobs and air con was added to cars it was not a perfected product with 0 issues.

          Reply
  16. Don A

    Wake up Ford!! All this crap on a touchscreen is ridiculous! Props to the other manufacturers that still use buttons and knobs!! Happy with the setup on my Bronco and what is still offered on F series even though it has the 12″ screen.

    Reply
  17. Deadarmadillo

    I have two 2016 Fords. An F-350 and my wife’s Explorer. They both have either/or controls but we hardly ever use the on screen one’s. Physical controls for me.

    Reply
  18. Boomer

    AND WHAT DO YA DO WHEN FORD SENDS OUT AN OTA UPDATE AND YOUR SCREEN GOE’S ? B L A C K” ?????? YA, THOUGHT SO!!!??? 👎. That is “if” they ever send out an ota TO F-150 OWNERS????

    Reply
  19. Dave

    Yes. Keep physical controls. I’m happy to be able to adjust temp and flow manually manipulating the controller knobs and switches. Also make sure you designers leave the pedal’s steering wheel crank windows and gear shifter leavers alone also

    Reply
  20. TL

    Controls should be hands on physical, not screen controls which are a distaction. Screens should only display information not control functions.

    Reply
  21. Dwayne D

    Totally ridiculous. They know customers want physical buttons, but its cheaper to go digital. Its an inconvenience and dangerous to keep taking your eyes of the road. How many times does the vehicle not allow you to do things while driving. “because of so called safety “. Totally hypocritical to eliminate physical buttons.

    Reply
    1. RangerLover

      It’s not hypocritical, you shouldn’t be using the knobs while driving either.

      Reply
  22. NotScreenEducated

    I think the more they go this direction, more people will die from distracted driving, and I will be 100 percent not buying another new Ford. “Technology” has decreased IQ rates astronomically especially in those raised up on screens. There’s no denying. I love technology, not “technology”. This kind of “technology” only makes people dumber and lazier. Bad move Ford.

    Reply
    1. RangerLover

      Do you have any proof of this supposed lowering of IQ due to technology? Mankind has never been smarter from everything I’ve witnessed and heard.

      Reply
      1. Tigger

        From what I see, mankind has never been more ignorant at least in this country.

        Reply
        1. RangerLover

          What exactly is “this country?” Why do I care what you think?

          Reply
          1. Tigger

            Because you responded…

            Reply
  23. Realistic retiree with 35+

    Goodness. Some people (corporations) NEVER LEARN. Comtec 1985 mark 7 ring a bell?….Lincoln/Microsoft crap in 2012. When are they going to fire to moron executives making these bad decisions? It has FAILED 3 times. Get over it. A simple button (I know, costs $0.02 per unit against the existing bonus and costs $2.00 per unit in warranty and non repeat customers after the ‘brilliant ‘ exec pushes it). It’s not can it work, it poor implementation, no testing, and ego executives that don’t live with it. Button says it all – your $0.02 button is more cost effective and reliable than ANY executives with an agenda.
    Tell me again why ford sells 1/2 of what gm does yet has 3x the executives? Not good decisions. Hmmmmm…..
    Why this is even a discussion is befuddled. The ‘decision makers’ don’t ever have to live with their decisions….funny.

    Reply
  24. Realistic retiree with 35+

    You have to remember, a physical button does NOT equate to physician control. Case in point, push button vs. key start. Owner ‘thinks’ its old school with a key. Once the key is turned, your not in control. Don’t believe? Just touch the key to engage and let go while it begins cranking. Watxh it continue cranking based on the “brain box”.
    Every manufactureer does it. Same as push button. once the person engages the key point, same as a button. Controlled start. Touch points (knows, keys, buttons) are for owners minds, not reality. Problem is, you need a reliable touchscreen and software. Both of which are…..lacking….

    Reply
  25. Ray

    I’m okay with some level of hybridization (e. g. Two temperature zone knobs and two fan speed buttons). But, above all of they want to put everything on the screen, then make their Sync voice assistant capable of controlling it! That way I have one button to push to change climate settings without having to fumble through multiple steps on a screen!

    Reply
  26. RangerLover

    As others have already said, physical knobs are much safer compared to touchscreens if you were to interact with it while driving. However, both are considered illegal / distracted driving. I can also see how this may save money due to less parts to build and install.

    Has anyone considered that burying it within the screen is done in hopes to leverage human laziness by making it a hurdle to fiddle with it while you’re driving in hopes you’ll just wait until you come to a stop like you should be doing already?

    Reply
    1. Tigger

      One can control the radio and climate control without taking their eyes off the road with physical buttons or knobs as easily as one uses their turn signal stalk.

      Reply
      1. RangerLover

        I’m aware of what one “can” do, it’s still illegal and people have still had accidents with physical controls. No matter how good you claim you are, there’s plenty of people that still take a moment to glance.

        Reply
        1. Tigger

          I don’t know if any state or country where it is illegal to change a station or turn on or off your climate control when driving. It would be quite a mess on the roads if people had to pull off to the side of the road every time they wanted to operate the climate control or radio.

          Reply
          1. TD

            Taking one’s eyes off the road briefly and/or removing one’s hand from the steering wheel briefly is not illegal, at least in Michigan. The current Michigan Driving Skills Test Study Guide states:

            When the examiner instructs you to turn on/off your fan (or radio):
            • If you must take your eyes off the road to locate your fan (or radio)
            switch, do so briefly. Taking your eyes off the road for long periods of
            time may create a hazardous situation.
            • Maintain your lane position and speed during this exercise.
            • Removing your hand from the steering wheel to turn a fan (or radio) on
            or off shouldn’t cause you to weave out of your traffic lane.

            Reply
          2. RangerLover

            It is not explicitly called out, but distracted driving is illegal. Every resource points out radio and climate controls as types of distracted driving. It would not be a mess, there’s various safer alternatives such as getting a passenger to do or having patience and waiting to make adjustments while stopped at a light/sign. I knew people in high school who were issued citations for distracted driving using their radio. It’s up to law enforcement to actually opt to enforce and apply the laws. Did you know it’s also illegal to idle your car to warm it up in various jurisdictions? Rarely see that enforced as well. Speeding? Rarely see people punished for that either.

            Reply
  27. Ford Owner

    Keep both the physical buttons and a touchscreen. Then make the funcions available on both sets. Ford can make the physical buttons programmable, so the owner can change their operations with options at the touchscreen. My Fusion Hybrid can let me control the AC functions on the touchscreen, on physical buttons, on the DIC with steering wheel buttons, or by verbal commans..

    Reply
  28. Rick_816

    After 6 months with my new 2023 Lincoln Corsair, I have gotten used to the static HVAC and seat heating/cooling controls at the bottom of the infotainment screen. I’ve been warned by my BlueCruise camera multiple times to keep my eyes on the road, when I’m simply trying to turn the seat heat from 3 to 1. More than once I’ve hit a bump and my finger went from a heated to a cooled seat, so it took me much longer to make what should be a simple change. I don’t mind interacting with the touchscreen, but it’s definitely more distracting and dangerous. Give us back the physical buttons!

    Reply
  29. whypac

    It should be illegal to not have buttons and knobs to control vehicle’s systems. Touch screens require you take your eyes off the road to make any kind of change.

    Reply
    1. RangerLover

      It’s illegal to use physical buttons and knobs while driving too…

      Reply
  30. David

    I absolutely dislike this trend away from physical controls be they buttons to press or radial knobs to twist. They are so much easier to work and fall to one’s hand so easily you don’t really have to look at what you are doing. All the digital screens require you to take your eyes off the road for a considerable and potentially dangerous amount of time. I was going to wait for the 2025 Explorer but when I learned it had an almost total digital screen I bought a 24 instead….still has some annoying digital controls but most I can live with……it’s not progress.

    Reply
  31. David Dickinson II

    Making your vehicle more like an iPhone is one more step to remove the driver from the equation. The EVs of the future won’t let you cool below 74 degrees in the summer or heat above 68 in the winter. Even if you can do that when you buy the vehicle, an OTA software upgrade will remove your driving choices in the future. More centralized control from the control freaks. To save the planet. From you.

    Reply
  32. HarleyRich

    No, No, , AND THIRDLY NO!!!
    We must have physical buttons.
    What happens if screen goes dead…????
    Quit with the shrink-flation—- cutting product and charging same or more!!!!!
    Ford is going to lose customers by doing that, stop with the designers getting a pay raise if they cut cost!!!!

    Reply
    1. SEO

      What shrinkflation? The functions are still there. Nothing is removed? Screen is bigger for customers that are hard of seeing, and if they are that hard of seeing they probably shouldn’t be driving anyway. Some vehicles even have voice commands that you cant tell it to adjust the theromstat. If screen dies then you replace it but I’ve owned several cars (multiple manufacturers) over the last couple years and not one screen has failed. Actually according to the data ford sales are up.

      Reply
      1. Tigger

        I’m sure it costs Ford a lot less money to make a vehicle with fewer buttons than it does a vehicle with buttons.

        The universal touch screen going out no big deal? At least with buttons your radio and climate controls will not be out at the same time and it’s a lot easier to replace a broken switch bank than an entire touch screen.

        Reply
  33. MARK A HIGDON

    WIth AI and Voice commands it should be simple to have the car learn your preferences (kind of like your preset temp, air flow outlets and fan options, or how cool on hot days and how warm on cool days, etc) and make changes by saying “Explorer, 75 degrees, fan 3, feet and face”, or similar. Once all the cars are leaving the driving to AI, watching screens will be typical driver behavior and the car will be proactive in adjusting to your desires. I still like the fully physical controls on my ’08 Taurus Limited, but am resigned to the future of talking, listening, obedient machines keeping us all cozy and comfortable while moving at 100 miles an hour. Until they revolt, or sun spots cause them to demand higher service intervals and less parking in the sun on hot days.

    Reply
  34. Mf

    Removal of physical controls is what kept me from ordering a 2025 Explorer ST fully loaded. Screen only vehicles look cheap to me, and I’m not paying $60k for a vehicle to look cheap.

    Reply
    1. Earl

      Hard controls, and how big are these screens going to get. Will soon have to peak around them to see the road !!!

      Reply
      1. Tigger

        Especially when they look like a glued-on appendage.

        Reply
  35. Lane

    Upon arrival at the destination of the first trip with a new Escape the screen went black and stayed that way for the next week of the vacation. No control for anything . Upon the return, the vehicle was at the dealer over two weeks awaiting parts. Get the car back and a recall arrives in the mail….

    Reply
  36. RushMan

    Physically distinct buttons and knobs are a safety feature. The identical buttons for the HVAC controls in the newer Escape and new 2025 Maverick and 2025 Bronco Sport are unsafe, requiring eyes off road to select the desired function. That is just as bad as touch screen controls – you might as well be texting. Get smart, Ford! Your current engineers are being stupid, creating unsafe driving situations with indistinct buttons and touch screen controls.

    Reply
    1. Peter

      Engineering and design are told what to do. It’s the A-holes at the top wanting to squeeze out more profit at the cost of safety

      Reply
  37. louie rahhal

    bring back physical buttons much eaiser and safer also bring back a sedan older folks have a hard time getting inti a suv

    Reply

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