Around 15 years ago, push-button starts were a new-fangled feature for sports and luxury cars. But now, according to Bloomberg.com, 72 percent of cars sold in the U.S. have push-button start as standard or an option. Is it time for the old, trusty ignition switch to be laid to rest?
“People really see the push button as a convenience and a luxury feature,” says senior editor at Edmunds.com, Bill Visnic. “The ignition switch is a very fussy, electro-mechanical part that’s seen as less reliable.”
Making its debut on the entire Chrysler Corporation lineup for 1949, the ignition switch has been as natural as a door or tire to most of us but, like the starter button that came before it, this manner of starting a vehicle has come full-circle.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra has said the recall of 2.59 million affected cars may prompt GM to make push-button starts standard for all its vehicles, but push-button starts aren’t without their faults. For example, Bloomberg.com tells the tale of a police officer who couldn’t shut off his Lexus ES 350 after the floor mat became wedged in the gas pedal; with an ordinary key, one could twist it and turn off the car, but Lexus required the start button to be held for three seconds to stop the motor. In response, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a new, half-second standard in 2011.
Another issue is the key leaving the premises—what if you drove to the airport, grabbed your luggage, kissed your significant other and left for the terminal with the key in your pocket? You’d have a running car and a loved one that would be stranded if he/she didn’t have a key as well.
“We’re asking people to unlearn something which was developed over generations of habit. You turned the key and it started or stopped,” says Visnic.