The Upside-Down Prius

There are times when one looks at something day after day without ever actually seeing. We are accustomed to receive stimuli that we accept as normal and we really never think of what we see. At least this is my experience. It turns out that retirement may be hazardous to me because it gives me time to think about subjects I have never had time to think about in the past.

I have owned a Prius since late 2007. It is a 2008 model and I purchased it because I wanted a hybrid vehicle. At that time there was little choice in the matter. I have driven the car almost daily since that time and never thought much of its gear selector joy stick until a couple of days ago. Then, suddenly I looked at it as if I was seeing it for the first time and thought it was wrong. May be wrong is too strong of a word, so let's say illogical.


Here is the picture of the gear selector joy stick.

I think that forward, the D selection, should be where the R, reverse, is. Because I want to push the joy stick forward to go ahead, and pull it back to go in reverse. Instead I have to do exactly the opposite. To be sure the way it works now has not created any problems for me so far, and I have not heard of any problems from any other Prius drivers. But it just seems illogical.

Toyota cannot even claim that the way the joy stick is configured follows the traditional H pattern of gearshifts used in the past. If this was the case, then B (low gear) would be on the upper left hand with Drive on the lower left hand selection. Neutral would be exactly in the opposite position and Reverse would then be on the lower right hand position.

My redesigned joy stick would look like this.

But even this very traditional and may be too nostalgic layout would present a problem since D and R would both require a down movement which would be straight for D and to the right and then down for R.

I never thought that would have to be so much analysis when I started thinking about the issue! So my suggestion is to just swap the R and D position. Then if I want to go forward I move the joy stick forward, and vice versa.

Ford Has Problems As Well

But now I could not stop. What did Ford do about gear selection? I focused on this company because my other car is a Lincoln MKZ hybrid. This is the car that my wife drives regularly, so it was not my primary concern when I started thinking about the problem. And here too I found a design issue. As you can see from the photo below the layout of the gear selector is totally backwards.


From front to back the selections should be: L D N R and P. Don't these designers know anything about car history or human mind? What they do know is that a human is a highly trainable animal that quickly internalizes choices and turns the resulting action into subconscious responses. And from this observation to thinking about marketing science the leap is quite small.

I chose an engineering degree so I could get a green card and become a US citizen. I should have stuck to what I really love to do: Finance and Marketing.