Home > Design, Geeky > Car commercial

Car commercial

January 21, 2006
An old-fashioned car door handle.  Even covered with ice and snow, you can get a good grip on it and pull when you need to.
Car-door handles as they are made today.  The flimsy little panel tilts upward unlatching the door so that, under ideal conditions (no ice), the door opens easily.  It does not afford pulling on the door.

Camera shows a woman scraping thick ice off her windshield in a freezing wind.  With some difficulty she unlocks the door and tries to open it, but the flimsy faux-handle tilts upward, unlatching the door which is frozen shut.  The dome light comes on but there’s nothing to grip to pull the door open.  Exasperated, she says; “Oh, no, please!  I’m late for work!” and starts trying to pry the pry the door open with her ice scraper, chipping the paint.

Just then a clean-cut man in a suit and tie walks up carrying a clipboard.  He is smiling and magically appears warm and comfortable;

“Good morning, maam!  How are you today?”  Before she can answer he launches into his spiel: “I’m from XYZ car company, and we’re taking a survey of the features consumers want on our next model car!  Do you want GPS navigation?  A twelve-speaker stereo?  A DVD player?”

The astonished woman drops the ice scraper, grabs his necktie, and pulls him eye-to-eye with her:

I want a real #@!!!% car door handle I can pull on!!!

Camera cuts to survey guy standing next to a frozen car in a parking lot.  He looks like he’s been beaten up by a dozen or so car owners.  He smiles weakly at the camera; “Introducing the 2008 XYZ Urban – a car with real door handles!” 

Survey guy pulls on the handle, there’s an ice-crunching noise, and the door opens.  He gets in and closes the door, and looks at the camera through the window.  His voice is muffled but we hear him say loudly; “So you can pull the #@!!!% door open when you need to!”  (drives away)


  1. All my old cars had real door handles – all my Beetles, my ‘67 Dodge Coronet 440, my ‘66 Rambler Classic, my ‘68 Fiat 124. 

  2. I’m pretty fond of wind-wings, too.
  3. How about simple light and wiper controls on the dash instead of some complicated, multi-functional stalk on the steering column?
  4. Anyone have any other suggestions?
Categories: Design, Geeky
  1. January 21, 2006 at 16:16 | #1

    Even living in North Carolina, I can’t count the number of times I’ve had the door handle syndrome happen to me.  Our world-famous ice storms cause this to happen repeatedly, all winter long. I usually end up pouring warm water into the door seal, and hoping that I can get it open before it freezes up again.

    They could put the high-beam switch back down on the floor by my left foot, where it belongs, without hurting my feelings any. 

    And whatever happened to ashtrays?  The last three vehicles I’ve bought didn’t have one.  My car is one of the few places left where I’m still allowed smoke; you can get a ticket for flicking them out the window (not to mention starting a fire), but there’s no ashtrays in vehicles any more.

    Thanks for asking.  I feel better now.



  2. WeeDram
    January 21, 2006 at 18:52 | #2

    High beam switch on the floorboard?  NO THANKS!  MorningGlory, my left leg doesn’t work well enough for me to operate a switch there.  I was ecstatic when designers figured out there were lots of people who could drive but didn’t have “normal” legs.  No offense, but those who have no significant physical disability don’t give much thought to things like this.

    My Honda CR-V is just about perfect when it comes to ergonomics.  Real door handles, controls that are logical and easy to use.  The heating and vent controls are oversized and can be operated with gloves.  The convenience features are well thought-out and implemented well.  The only thing I would change is to make it a hybrid vehicle.

  3. January 21, 2006 at 23:05 | #3

    No matter where you put a switch, somebody will have problems.  I bet multi-function turn-signal stalks are hell for left-arm amputees who otherwise would be perfectly good drivers.  The CRV does seem like a really well-engineered car, no surprise from Honda.

    Cars used to have the starter-motor switch on the floorboard; you’d turn the key and step on the switch.  The reason was that it was a real switch, not a relay, so it was close to the starter-motor in a front-engine car.  They worked with Bendix-type solenoids and a friend of mine had one on his ‘58 Rambler. 

    They’re not putting ashtrays in cars anymore?  Well, a pop-can in a cup-holder could serve that function, I guess.  But ashtrays are good for keeping change in even if you don’t smoke.  I think the ‘change holders’ built into some cars, with special slots for quarters, dimes, and nickles, are silly.  Who’s that organized?

    One thing cars SHOULD have is a 1/8-inch line-in jack on the radio.  It would add about fifty cents to the cost of the car, but you could play your MP3 player through the stereo.  BMW has an iPod interface, but that’s idiotic because the feature is useless with any other brand of player.

    I wouldn’t buy a hybrid vehicle, yet.  It does make sense to factor in gas mileage when you buy a car, though.

  4. OB
    January 22, 2006 at 15:49 | #4

    My husband’s Ford Escape came with an ashtray of sorts – it was a rounded, lidded thing that sat in one of the cupholders.  The same year, I bought a Ford Mustang, which had NOTHING even resembling an ashtray.  I ended up taking hubby’s cup-thing for the rare occasions when I’d actually put a cigarette out INSIDE the car rather than tossing it out the window (like in one of our plethora of highly-fire-prone areas here in SoCal).  The way I see it, since I’m being taxed up the friggin’ wazoo every time I turn around in this state, I’m paying enough to cover the removal from the side of the freeway of my occasional butt.  Although now that I think about it, the people who’re usually tasked with trash pickup from the sides of freeways are doing so as part of some sort of sentence of community service for a legal infraction – so there goes one more service that’s probably NOT being covered by the inordinately high taxes I pay here, goddammit. :angry:

    My 2004 Mazda 6 has an ashtray, and it’s in more-or-less the traditional place, but it’s so small, and integrated into the car in such a way that in order to be SURE I’m getting the ashes into it (and not all over the center console) is to look down while I’m flicking; which is downright dangerous here in L.A.  So, ashes go out the window, along with the butts.

    I miss the wing windows too… they were PERFECT for us girl smokers, who want some air going through the car but would rather not ruin our hairdo, heh.  Our 1989 Isuzu pickup truck has them; I think it’s the latest model vehicle I’ve seen that has that feature.

    With all that said, I love your commercial idea, DOF!!!  :-)

  5. WeeDram
    January 22, 2006 at 21:34 | #5

    The CR-V has multiple places to keep change.  I periodically find a small fortune.

    The coolest feature of Ramblers of that vintage were the font seats that folded down completely flat, level with the back seats.  Absolute nightmare for fathers of teenage girls, though.

    I’d bet there are far fewer left-arm amputee drivers than those with leg problems, but yes, there will always be tradeoffs.  Overall, moving the high beam switch to a stalk has been a good thing.  The market hasn’t screamed for its return to the floor.

  6. January 23, 2006 at 12:52 | #6

    I’d settle for global standards for driving column stick interfaces.  Do I pull that stick to flash the high beams, or to swish the wipers, or to wash the rear window?  Do I push that button to turn on the cruise control, to wash the front window, or to trigger the ejection seat?

    As someone who rents numerous cars—hell, as someone who owns cars by two different manufacturers, it bugs the hell out of me.

    When I’ve visited the UK, I’ve driven in cars (usually manual), which is actually far easier than it sounds, esp. since the column sticks are usually the same. That was *not* true the one time I rented a car in Dublin, though, and I don’t know how many stops I was at where the windshield wipers went on instead of the turn signal and I was completely out of brain processing power (having to figure out which lane to turn into) to turn them off.

    Hi-beam tale.  My family grew up on GM cars.  I remember the first time we (Mom, brother, and I) were driving my dad’s Datsun (which was usually verboten, but circumstances cause it to happen) and we saw the hi-beams were on. 

    It was a fortunate thing we were only a mile or two from home, because no amount of probing with the left foot, or searching on the dashboard, would turn them off, the whole idea of a stick on the steering column never occuring to any of us.

  7. January 23, 2006 at 13:15 | #7

    Calling Don Norman!  In his book, The Design Of Everyday Things he called for devices to have clear affordances for desired functions.  His most famous example is a door bearing the sign “please push” above a vertical bar.  Many people will look for physical-world affordances (plates afford pushing; vertical bars afford pulling) before they will read a sign.

    The exception to this rule is any well-known standard.  Pulling on the turn signal stalk usually will dim the brights, and this standard has been around long enough for everyone to know it even though it is far from obvious.  (Indeed, that motion of the stalk is not at all suggested by the design of the stalk, and the complexity of the stalk makes it all too easy to trigger unintended functions even if you do know.)

    An example of this is the infrared-triggered faucet; you put your hands under the spout to turn on the water.  My son told me that eventually, everyone would come to expect this.  Sure enough, not long ago, I went to wash my hands in a public restroom and dutifully put my hands under the spout.  Nothing happened.  “Oh,” I thought, “faucet handles.  How unsanitary.”

  8. zilch
    January 24, 2006 at 06:34 | #8

    Since the last car I owned was a ‘62 Rambler station wagon, I’ve never had this problem.  That was a great beast- lots of room, and I rebuilt the engine myself, something I could not do with any recent auto.

    Here in Vienna, we have no car, and don’t miss it- public transportation is enough, and for the times twice a year when we need one, we can borrow my father-in-law’s.

  9. GH
    January 28, 2006 at 13:15 | #9

    suggestion for those seeking a solution to the ash tray problem, (although the soda can was pretty good)

    an indoor ash tray and


  10. Christian
    July 27, 2006 at 02:22 | #10

    The idea of an car not having ashtrays is absurd! One only need look at the magnificent Cadillacs, Packards and Lincolns of days gone by to see that having ashtrays in the doors or on the seatbacks is an elegant touch to any automobile. The new designs afforded us by today’s designers: bulbous, gortesque creatures with very little individuality and taste, would obviously hint at the need for something to add real class to the concoction..such as the addition of ash receivers.
    To those who do not smoke, I would like to tell you all one thing, you are not an entity unto yourselves, we smokers should be afforded the same rights as you enjoy without harassment, but this is no longer the case. We are treated as outcasts, and for you to think that you are better than a group that included both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the great Bette Davis shows that you are indeed quite foolish and have very little sense..for where would we be without our great Mr. Roosevelt and his black cigarette holder..and Bette Davis would NOT be Bette Davis without a cigarette..you should all be goose-stepping now and growing little mustaches since you have so little respect for the greatest president we have ever had..also think of your Social Security..Roosevelt AGAIN. He saved the world from the blasted Nazis and Emperor Hirohito and if he were alive today you would ostracize him for his habit…shame. Miss Davis would have simply told you where to stick it and maybe given you a little cigarette burn before sashaying out of the room. Just thought I would give you a lecture..since you lecture us constantly.

  11. Christian
    July 27, 2006 at 02:26 | #11

    correction: Truman technically saved us from the Japs…but your anti-smoking = anti-Roosevelt treachery is still just as shameful..

  12. July 27, 2006 at 12:18 | #12

    Christian, I’m just… curious who you’re speaking to, since no one here advocated removing ashtrays from cars.

  13. BGE
    November 9, 2006 at 17:45 | #13

    As someone above said, you have to look down to find the pop can sized ashtray in the console.  I hate it.  I still can’t believe that a regular ashtray isn’t available even as an option. 
    And to top that off, I find that I REALLY miss the little light that was in the ashtry.  At night, if I look down, it’s pitch black.  I can hardly see the console, forget the floor.

    Anyway, my son’s car handles freeze in the winter and I’m trying to figure out what can be done.  The door pulls themselves freeze tight.  I’ve never known a car to do it to this extent.  The 1990 car that I traded off last spring wasn’t as bad about it as his 1996.  Any suggestions?

  14. November 9, 2006 at 22:01 | #14

    I bet the composition of the door seals has changed.  Also cars are too stylish to have real rain gutters over the doors anymore.  ;-)

    A couple things I have done in the past.  One is to clean the door seals and track, and then lubricate them with WD-40 or a teflon-based lubricant.  That may help repel water before it freezes.  Try it on a rear door, or the passenger door if it is a 2-door, before doing the driver’s door.  That helped with MrsDoF’s Mitsubishi.

    Another is to use one of those magnetic calendars – the kind you put on your refrigerator.  They are about 8 inches by 10 inches and made of a magnetic plastic.  When you park the car, slap one on top of the car door handle, thus protecting the handle and lock from precipitation.

    My ‘67 Dodge Coronet 440 never had this problem.

  15. December 1, 2006 at 16:59 | #15

    Excellent post, I wish door handles were made like they used to be.  Cause I am one of the suckers driving around a car without a handle on the driver side door.  At first it sucked to get into, but after a year and a half I have gotten used to it.

  16. October 15, 2008 at 12:26 | #16

    I hate the winter, no matter what car you have old or new it puts a damp on things.  The salt off the road eats away at the bottom of your car and rims.  Chance of crashing on the road, and not to mention the cold.  You almost have to always blare your heat in the winter.  I’ll tell you one good thing about newer cars is the remote starter, great to use in the winter!

  17. December 11, 2008 at 05:29 | #17

    OK ,here’s an idea, i would love to hav eold shed (banger) so I could do this. Get a couple of big steel door handles, you know the type you put on internal doors and screw them on. I totally agree with you on the original picture. I had an old triumph herald which had a sticky door at times and especially when icy, the fact it had a ‘proper handle’ made life so much easier. Same applies if it needs a good slam which is better to do holdign the handle than the bodyword. Some progress just isn;t progress.. What abotu card with no handles!! I guess you’ll eb waiting unti the lunktime thaw, although if you own a lambo that’s not a proble just sommond you driver! Come on Jeeves off we go…

  18. December 20, 2009 at 10:58 | #18

    My 2004 Mazda 6 have an ashtray, and it is more-or-less traditional places, but so small, and integrated into the car so that order can be SURE I started ashes into it (and not all in the center console) is to look down while I snapped; a very dangerous here in LA So, the ashes went out the window, along with the butts.

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