Buick Reatta

reatta dash

This coupe tried its best to look sporty, but it pretty much resembled a Fiat X1/9 that had been subsisting on Krispy Kremes and Big Gulps its whole life. The real selling point, or what Buick thought was a selling point, was the car’s “Electronic Control Center.” Touch screens in automobiles these days can be found on entry-level Kias, but in 1989, using an interactive monitor in place of more traditional climate and radio controls was a radical step forward.

The trouble was Buick’s elderly clientele– average age 64 years and 3 months at that time—were not radicals. The typical Buick driver may have seen “video games” in the waiting area of Pizza Hut when they were taking their grandchildren out for a treat, but to have some alien green TRS-80 style interface slapped up inside their dashboard was too much. This age group was already causing major havoc on the motorways–now Buick was asking them to take their eyes off the road for 10, 15, even 25 seconds at a time to muddle about with an interface that was incomprehensible to them. No records were kept, but you can bet that many fatal accidents were caused by this “innovative feature.”

The Reatta drivers who managed to survive overwhelmed their dealers with so much negative feedback that by the time the 1991 model was released the screen had been replaced with more traditional push buttons and analog dials. It was too little, too late and the car was nixed from the Buick lineup the very next year.

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