GENEVA – Simplicity is the name of the game for Ford’s interior designers as they cram ever more technology into already crowded cabin space.

That’s the opinion of Ernst Reim, chief interiors designer for Ford of Europe, who says the path to an uncluttered cabin of the future has been blazed by the latest-generation Ford Fiesta. He was the design lead on the Fiesta ST.

Speaking at this year’s Geneva auto show, Reim tells WardsAuto any future interior designs must reflect the consumer’s existing preference for what he calls hard keys.

“We have been running several discussion clinics with customers where we have found that they are definitely looking for a ‘hard key’– for example, seat memory switches which people still expect to be positioned close to the seat,” he says. “It’s an important psychological aspect of the design” that has to be catered to.

These traditional preferences even extend into the area of high-tech infotainment systems despite the plethora of hands-free technologies such as gesture control and voice command.

“The same is true for the volume button on the (audio system), where people still like to have the ‘hard key’ of a normal rotary button for volume up or down. So, it’s these simple things that the HMI (human-machine interface) team are really concentrating on – getting these things simplified and getting the reduction of buttons which we have already seen in the new Fiesta, where the button count has been nearly halved.

“This means things work in the same way but the interaction with the consumer is far easier,” Reim says. “As we go forward, it’s coming down to the minimum of ‘hard keys’ without losing the ones that customers want next to the things they want to operate.”

He predicts radical advances will appear in future incarnations of Ford’s SYNC technology.

“With SYNC we are concentrating on getting the consumer’s personal devices working as perfectly as is possible inside the cabin. So, that as soon as the door is opened, the car recognizes the user, it sees what is on the driver’s device with all the main apps displayed where the driver can use them on the go, so that whatever was started at home can be finished in the car.”

In spite of the complexities of coming technology, the mission toward simplicity remains vital. “This has to be achieved in a very simplified way so that the consumer is not confused by the technology,” Reim says. “Just like the interaction with the mobile device, it must be easy to understand and easy to read in all situations. Everything in the car must work in the same way as the mobile device that the consumer brings into the car.

“The latest SYNC (third) generation already covers most of this functionality, but for sure the team is working hard to bring this to the next level.”