When General Motors finally issued a recall of 2.59 million vehicles due to faulty ignition switch this year, it may have marked the start of an end to the antiquated keyed starter. In April, GM chief executive Mary Barra said the recall may prompt the carmaker to make push-button start standard in all its offerings.
Push-button start, which was first used in Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the late 1990s, is now offered as an option in 72 percent of 2014 cars and trucks in the United States, according to Edmunds.com. It even ranked as the fifth most coveted option for $100 or less in a poll by auto researcher AutoPacific. The New York Auto Show even featured an animated push button as its logo.
Bill Visnic, senior editor at Edmunds.com, remarked that consumers see the push button as a convenience and a luxury feature, while noting that the ignition switch is now seen as less reliable. Key ignitions are among the source of complaints from drivers even before GM found out the defects in its small cars, which has been tied to at least 13 deaths.
According to a Bloomberg News analysis, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received over 18,000 complaints on key ignitions, involving several models and carmakers.
The complaints range from stuck keys, vehicles stalling at high speeds and cars starting on their own. GM's faulty ignition switch is typical of the defects logged by NHTSA over the years. It involves key which could be unintentionally jarred by a knee, uneven road or weighed down by a heavy key chain. [source: Bloomberg]