Audi’s Blank Buttons Are Now Paywall Messages

Have you noticed that instead of blank buttons appearing in the interior of cars that are missing certain features, software messages are taking their place? Audi recently experienced this firsthand when a driver of their electric Q4 E-Tron posted a clip of the vehicle on the Mildly Infuriating subreddit and it quickly went viral.

The car owner had chosen to not purchase Audi's tri-zone climate control, yet still saw a “Sync” button in their vehicle, and surprise surprise, it actually did something when pressed – an onscreen message popped up to inform the driver that the climate control feature had not been purchased. In Denmark, where this particular owner is based, the add-on would have cost around $758, but pressing the button displayed no prompt to purchase the function.

Historically, cars with unpurchased features had blank pieces of plastic in place of a button that couldn’t be pressed and blended in with the interior. Audi’s implementation here is kind of serving the same purpose and sharpening up the appearance of the interior, however, it’s a lot less subtle than a blank button. As the owner wrote, “Blank buttons aren’t rude. This one is reminding me that I’m cheap.”

It’s possible that Audi is saving money on the production of physical hardware for the climate control system by equipping all cars with the same control panel regardless of features, or they may plan to add in-car purchasing at a later date. Either way, a message reminding drivers that they hadn’t purchased a feature in their premium EV definitely would’ve irked some folks.