Researchers at the University of Warwick are working on the ideal dashboard switch to attract purchasers of luxury cars.
A team from Warwick Manufacturing Group have joined with Ford's Premier Automotive Group on the project for its cars which include Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin.
It is designed to capitalise on the theory that the feel of the switches in a dashboard costing £1,000 or more could be the deciding factor on which car brand they buy.
The team are testing stereo switches, buttons on the steering wheel and automatic window buttons along with others.
Tim Wellings, a member of the research team, said: "It has long been understood that simple things such as the feel of a dashboard can have a disproportionately large impact on the choices customers make when purchasing luxury cars.
"The simple positive feel of a switch can be the final factor that swings a decision to purchase a car.
"On the other hand daily use of switches which for some reason irritate a driver can push that customer to try another brand of car when they next change their vehicle."
Despite understanding this motivating factor, there has been surprisingly little real study about precisely what people prefer about their car switches, said Mr Wellings.
He said in many other situations in life one might prefer a firm switch with a satisfying click indicating clearly the device has worked.
"We are finding for example that lots of people do not like something which makes a click because it sounds plasticy and cheap. People are increasingly being influenced by their experience with things in their home, like expensive stereos."
Instead Mr Wellings and his co-researcher Dr Rebecca Cain have found that customers placed smoothness and quietness of operation at the top of the list for switches in luxury cars.
The team led by Dr Mark Williams is now developing techniques that can help automotive engineers measure and enhance these factors.
Mr Wellings said: "The way a customer interacts with a vehicle has a big influence on how they see the car as a whole.
"In the past people focused on the functionality - does the car work properly, are they reliable and safe, powerful and fast.
"But now people's expectations have changed. Rather than expecting a vehicle to be just reliable and safe, they are now looking for a product which makes them feel better about themselves."
The intention is to turn these imprecise expressions of customer preference into quantifiable engineering measurements and techniques that will allow engineers to create the experience premium vehicle customers desire when using their car controls.
This work is being carried out in the Craftsmanship project which forms one part of a £70 million research venture on high value premium products between WMG - part of the University of Warwick - and PAG.
The Premium Automotive R&D programme is funded by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands and also works with a range of Midlands SMEs that supply automotive companies.