1999 VW Passat Beverage Holders
The beverage holders in my 1999 VW Passat are a very poor design, in both front and rear passenger compartments. Technically, they are very nice. They collapse neatly – nearly invisibly – into a thin recess in the center console. The one in the rear compartment failed almost immediately after I bought the car new. Something broke on it and it would no longer stay retracted. No matter; I never sit back there anyway; Nor do I often carry passengers, so I just pulled it out and threw it in the glove box, where it resides to this day. But the one in front is much worse. It presents a unique triple-whammy of failures, suffering not only from poor design, per se, but also from the poor implementation of a poor design.
The design is poor because it fails to take into account the very purpose for which it is intended: To hold beverages. Because it is designed to retract into a very thin space, its design employs various thin, hinged and telescopic moving parts that ride tongue-in-groove fashion upon one another. And herein lies the problem. It is inevitable, especially in a moving car, that the beverage being held will slosh about and some will spill. Indeed, the thin design behaves much like a diving board, amplifying the resonant frequencies of the vehicle’s suspension system at every bump, inducing spillage. It’s almost as if the thing was designed to spill! And If that beverage happens to be a sweetened coffee, soda or juice, it will invariably evaporate, leaving behind a concentrate of extremely sticky residue (sugar). As a result, these tightly-fitting, telescoping parts easily become glued together by the sticky resin. This even affects the push-to-release mechanism, making it impossible to coax the holder from its retracted position without prying it open with a screwdriver. But there is yet another problem: The location of the beverage holder in relation to the car’s radio. Once deployed, the holder places the rim of a soda can or coffee mug in extremely close proximity to the radio control buttons. Again, the inevitable sloshing of a drink in a moving car causes the drink to spill onto the radio buttons. And again, when it evaporates, it becomes a sticky, concentrated adhesive inside the buttons, making them “stick” when depressed. Another horrible and unintended consequence.
A recurring theme here at PoorDesign is this: Keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t forget to consider the use environment and conditions under which your design will be utilized. The engineers at VW designed a very clever mechanism. It works wonderfully under ideal conditions, and retracts beautifully flush with the console. But once a mere drop of soda or coffee makes its way onto any of the sliding surfaces, it quickly becomes glued shut. And these tight spaces cannot even be accessed to clean them. It is a one-way trip to dysfunction junction. The moving parts should have been designed to be immune to the affects of inevitable spillage. It would certainly have helped if the engineers had at least provided some form of vibration damping to isolate the holder from the natural jostling that occurs while driving on anything other than a glass-smooth road.
Workaround: Don’t drink anything other than pure water when driving your VW Passat!