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To Key or Not to Key

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On: Mon, Jun 23, 2014 at 2:45PM | By: Karen Cook

To Key or Not to Key

The massive recall of General Motors’ ignition switches has raised some important questions and sparked discussions throughout the automobile market. With the number of vehicles recalled in the millions and still growing, we have to ask how long the old key-activated ignition will be around. The short answer is, it’s not going anywhere.

A keyless ignition eliminates the need for a key and uses a push button to start the engine as well as turn it off.

Even though keyless ignitions would have alleviated GM’s problem, it is available on only 19 of their models. It is standard on only eight.

Scion and Toyota offers the technology on 23 of its 31 models and it is standard on all Lexus models.

Keyless ignitions are standard on only 2 Kia models but available as an option on another six.

In 2004 only five models of vehicles could be had with a keyless ignition. This year 252 of the 351 available new models, or about 72%, either have it standard or offered as an option. The technology is definitely growing in popularity and I suppose it’s safer (although I’ve never heard of a problem with using keys until the GM debacle).

So why don’t we get rid of keys altogether? It comes down to price. Most automakers see keyless ignitions as a convenience for the driver rather than a safety issue. It costs the manufacturer around $75 to $125 per vehicle to put in this type of ignition, according to the best information I could find. I should state that this number did not come from a specific manufacturer and is a best-guess from my perusals. This amount or something close, must be passed on to the purchaser, most likely with a markup for profit.

If consumers decide that this option is important enough to make it standard, car makers will have little choice but to comply. At this point though, those who feel they need it will have to fork over the dough.


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