As bad as the
government is about making new cars cost a fortune by issuing regulatory
fatwas (such as fleet average fuel economy requirements)
the automakers themselves are just as guilty. Maybe more so, because
much of the stuff they are engineering into new cars is stuff that
they could leave out since theres no law (yet) requiring them.
push-button (keyless) ignition.
Go back five
years and this was an exotic feature you encountered in a few very
high-end cars which is where a feature like this belongs
because it doesnt really add any functionality, just some
wow factor and, of course, expense. A lot
of expense. Instead of a physical key you insert into a lock, then
turn youve got a key fob transmitter that talks
to the cars ignition system. You dont turn anything.
Just push the start button on the dash or console
and the engine fires up. Push the button again to turn off the engine.
This is neato-torpedo, I guess until the fob stops transmitting
because you forgot to take it out of your pants pocket and it went
through a super wash cycle. Or maybe you just lost it.
Now, youll feel the dark side of technology. Instead
of going to Lowes and having a duplicate key cut for $5 youll
be heading to the dealership because only the dealership
can fix the push-button ignition. It is proprietary technology;
their technology. Instead of $5, you could be looking at
For a new car
God help you
if the problem runs deeper like some defect with the internal
guts/computer gremlins inside the steering column that run
the show. Used to be you could just pop out the lock cylinder in
the steering column and pop in a new one, easy-peasy Japaneesy.
It cost maybe $75. That figure is about two-thirds the hourly labor
rate youll be paying to have a technician chase
down whatever glitch has developed in your cars operating
Note: The keyless
ignition system is not the same animal as remote keyless
entry. For the latter you can still get relatively reasonably priced
replacements on the aftermarket (as well as at the dealer) for about
$75 or so. The keyless ignition stuff is different. It allows
you (or someone else) to start and drive the car without
a physical key not just get into the car. The automakers
are understandably reluctant to allow anyone but their
own authorized dealers to access the codes/software and so on that
comprise the working guts of the keyless ignition.
So when the
push-button ignition system malfunctions, or youve lost your
transmitter, youre in their clutches.
And of course,
rich, no big deal. You pay what they say and drive on. But most
of us arent. Yet more and more cars (I test drive new ones
every week) including more and more modestly priced, $25k-ish family-type
cars, are coming through equipped with this technology. It is being
pushed hard by the automakers because, well, theres a lot
of money in it. The profit margins are large at point-of-sale
and even more so down the road, when the system gets buggy or you
lose the transmitter. These are things you cannot fix yourself
not unless you are an MIT grad with a full array of factory diagnostic
tools and equipment, anyhow.
I would just
say no, myself.
is that its becoming hard to just say no.
Just like cell
phones, which are equally inessential yet depressingly ubiquitous,
push-button ignition (and more besides) is becoming a default standard
in new cars. Automaker agit-prop has convinced the masses that they
absolutely must have such things just like they succeeded
in convincing minivan-driving Moos who drive significantly faster
than the posted speed about as often as Newt Gingrich goes for a
jog that they must have 17 inch alloy wheels and 55-series low-aspect
ratio $150 a piece sport tires.
Lots of money
in that, too.
In a couple
of years probably sooner it will be as hard to find
a car without push-button start as it is to find a car without
power windows or ABS brakes today.
are on their way to becoming curiosities of a bygone era
like the paid-for home and having more than $50 in your bank account.
I wonder whether
theres a connection
with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.
[send him mail] is an automotive
columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
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