– By Victoria Nelson –
I know it’s a stretch using a parody of the 1970s anti-war protest song (and no, Bruce Springsteen didn’t sing it first in the eighties) to start a rant on how car keys have become redundant in 2020, but it’s such a catchy song.
Anyway, in an article published in March I was forced to drive a base model fleet car (aka poverty pack for those Springsteen fans still reading) to share an ‘experience’ with the FAN readers. That car required me to insert a key into an ignition switch to start it.
I was mortified to find out these things still existed. They had deceived me with a fob style key which I dropped into my Louis Vuitton without a second thought. It turned out to be a flip key throwback from the BA Falcon. It took five minutes to fish it out again and start the car.
A friend of mine slipped down a few rungs in the social stakes post GFC and purchased a Toyota Corolla. It came with a proximity remote and push button start – shouldn’t all cars have them by now?
I’m sure cost is one reason manufacturers still make drivers insert a key into a barrel. Marketing is another because you need to be able to differentiate between models with different specifications so you can charge more. Emotion probably plays a big role as well. We are conservative by nature and don’t like things changing. The key attaches us to the metal and provides an emotional link when we can’t see it; like a blankie. So removing the key altogether would be a step to far for the mainstream car buyer.
But not for Tesla. With the new Model 3 your phone is the key. It uses Bluetooth to identify you as the owner and unlocks the car when you approach then locks it when you walk away. Like a puppy its greets you with excitement and is ready to play without any additional effort. Tesla does provide a credit card size car reader as a back up and you can buy a key fob for the Luddite in the family.
I can understand if trucks and vans still require metal keys. They’re big and practical with multiple drivers. Some of the lunching ladies, that have heard this rant several times, suggested to me that the keys for trucks should reflect the size of the vehicle. Obviously this would be ludicrous. Imagine a 12 inch long object in your pocket all day.
As we enter the decade of electric vehicles and mobility more manufacturers will follow Tesla and eliminate old fashion keys from our pockets like the banks are doing with credit cards. Like a good red, new ideas take time to mature.