GM Recall Lesson, Push-Button Start/Stop Standard – Ignition Keys Dead

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While the GM ignition switch fiasco continues to make news, people are wondering what is the likely outcome of recall? A big fine – yep, $35 million. More congressional hearings – yep. How about no more ignition keys?

GM Recall Lesson, Push-Button Start/Stop Standard - Ignition Keys Done

Toyota uses an ignition key for the Tundra. They need to learn from GM and introduce push button start/stop.

The facts are car keys have been getting phased out for years with the new push button start/stop taking over. While, there are those critics who claim the push button is just one more thing to break. The reality is ignition switches are breaking and causing much greater consequences. If automakers learn anything from GM’s fiasco, it is car keys should be finally eliminated.

The Faulty Ignition Switch

Ultimately, the GM fiasco really boils down to one key point – if the cars had push button start/stop technology, there would be no fiasco. The facts are the part used in the ignition switch was faulty. Also, drivers overburdened the switch with janitor-style key chains. Both of these factors are eliminated with push button start/stop.

These days, the ignition switch is a pivotal part to any car. This switch is tied into many systems like air bags, security systems, engine power, power steering, etc… When the ignition switch fails, it creates havoc for the driver. The good ole days of the switch just turning on the vehicle seem to be long gone. As car safety and technology has evolved, the switch development seems to have been stagnant. It is simply being replaced with push button start/stop instead.

You may be wondering how many cars don’t have push button start/stop? According to, 72 percent of 2014 cars and trucks in the U.S. will have the button. What vehicles make up the last quarter or so? Mostly it is trucks.

All Trucks Need Push-Button Start/Stop

While at the Toyota Tundra unveil last year, I remember several journalists asking Toyota Tundra Chief Engineer Mike Sweers why trucks still have ignition switches? With the growing majority of vehicles offering keyless entry and push-button start/stop, it is a convenience trucks are missing. His reply was that customer demand hadn’t made it a top priority.

If customer demand doesn’t make it a top priority, how about the incentive to avoid a similar fiasco like GM’s and their $35 million fine from the NHTSA?

GM Recall Lesson, Push-Button Start/Stop Standard - Ignition Keys Done

Ford’s new 2015 F-150 has a push-button start/stop. They understand it is time to move forward.

Ford gets it. The new 2015 Ford F-150 has BOTH keyless entry and push-button start/stop. They obviously see customer demand in the market different than Toyota.

Toyota Needs to Innovate

Toyota’s many truck fans love to point out how innovative they were with the second generation truck. Where has that innovation gone? We aren’t really sure, but it is time to at the very least follow the leader.

With Ford going with a keyless entry, push-button start/stop and, gasp, adding the driver’s side grab handle BACK into their trucks. We would like to see Toyota do the same on all three counts.

Rumors are strong that Toyota is making changes to its 2015/16 model with a larger gas tank and adding in a trailer brake control. Let’s add keyless entry and push-button start/top to that list. They can do it. Lexus and various other Toyota products have the technology already.

In the end, the antiquated key doesn’t serve a real purpose anymore and the long-term problems/issues with an ignition switch are many. The problems should outweigh any cons (we can’t think of any) to the push-button start/stop.

What do you think? Time for the key to go away?

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  1. LJC says:

    The crux of GM’s fine is NOT the ignition switch, it’s the way they handled the defective part.

    “They [Ford] obviously see customer demand in the market different than Toyota.”
    This is so true; Mike Sweers seems to ignore or pick and choose market demand from Toyota surveys and listens to his circle of friends.

    The stuff being added to the Tundra is not new. Adding a brake controller and bigger gas seems to be getting a lot of attention; what does that say about the current lack of leadership when it comes to options for the Tundra?

    I agree with Mark Williams; there just seems to be a lack of commitment when it comes to the Tundra–may be the president of Toyota should tow a couple of FT1 cars with a Tundra.

    Times for the keys to go away? Sure for now.

  2. Randy says:

    How do you lock your keyless fob in the truck when you go skinny dipping?

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      LOL. Ok, fine. But, what would you do with the key instead??


      • Randy says:


        Simple, I toss the keys in the truck, lock them up, and then I can drive away at any time – never stranded.

        Will Ford lose the keypad on the 2015 because of the button or have they solved this dilemma?


        • Tim Esterdahl says:


          That video makes me feel really cold!

          I don’t think they will lose the keypad. It is a fixture now and a Ford “symbol.” Toyota won’t offer it anytime soon, I can tell you that.


  3. DJ says:

    I think for Toyota and Swears that it’s not a matter of ignoring, just a matter of limited $ and resources to really make the Tundra the leader in it’s class. I think Toyota is realistic about sales numbers and knows that a huge investment in the Tundra again probably won’t pay off, especially after the 07′ debut (which the recession hurt).
    Toyota is never the leader in new technologies and features, save maybe the Prius in the 90’s. They stick with what they already have, and what they know works. Take the 14′ 4Runner for example, it still has a 5-speed tranny!

  4. Speedster says:

    My problem with SmartKeys are the fact that you cannot let the car run and lock it. That is a problem with all of Toyota’s vehicles. I live in a northern climate, and I would prefer to leave the vehicle running to warm up for a few minutes, and lock it with the key in the ignition, and then use my key fob to open the door and go. Toyotas won’t lock like that.

    I don’t have a problem with keyed ignitions, but I think the expense to have a push button start is too much. I always keep a valet key hidden on my vehicle for emergency/lost key purposes, no doing that with SmartKey. If you lose a SmartKey, cost on it is over $200, plus programming, which is about $50+.

    I’m ok with a regular key.

  5. toyrulz says:

    It didn’t bug me till recently, but I think Toyota needs to make the lock on the tailgate power with the keyless system too. With backup camera standard now, there are wires in the gate anyway… maybe center the camera next time around too…

    A loaner Prius I had locked and unlocked by proximity of the fob, cool but hard to know it’s locked when it is always open when you get to it.

    What happens if electrical system is down or fob dies? or you need truck on but not started to reset this etc…?

    Maybe Toyota would be best advised to talk to QNX and get BlackBerry level secure app that uses NFC as a back up for the fob and has tools like “on but no run” or just do these functions all in-phone with the Toyota cross platform app and long range blue tooth (including remote start and lock run notification).

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      I agree on the locking tailgate. I’ve often wondered why it isn’t powered with the key fob. I do somewhat like Ford’s idea on the tailgate lowering via a key fob button. Have you seen/did you know about that? On the key fob, you press a button and the tailgate lowers. I can see it being somewhat cool, but I’m not so sure on it. I’d prefer it would just lock.


      • toyrulz says:

        Didn’t know Ford did that, what’s next heated handle for the man step I guess.

        Seriously, remote open gate is kind of cool (especially when the handle is so high), but why not go the route of their Escape where it opens when you kick the bumper (or however that works) so can open when hands are full? Just saying, a free hand that can push a button can pop the latch – proximity fob will unlock when close…

        Ford’s solution is not hands free so I see little advantage to offset cost and complexity for problems. Toyota could just add springs (think of popping a hood) that the power lock could also unlatch with solenoid, the spring will push it enough to clear relatching, and the existing slam free stuff will let the gate fall nicely.

        Then Ram will have one that will also close a year or two later LOL.

        • Tim Esterdahl says:


          I’m actually surprised Ram didn’t offer the remote tailgate first. They have really been innovating a lot of things lately.

          The Escape item is a proximity open device. You don’t kick the bumper, you just put your foot in a spot and it opens for you. No word on long-term and/or debris concerns.

          These things are interesting “gadgets” ultimately. And since Toyota isn’t a gadget company, I can see them being the last to incorporate them.


  6. toyrulz says:

    “This” was supposed to say “TPMS”

    I know…

    Not everybody has or wants a Smartphone. Toyota can sell an optional accessory smartfob that does all the stuff without cell contracts… a mini phone like controller with blue tooth that can run the app and not much more. It could be made in mini and deluxe versions that have bigger displays and allow other apps (and sim card ready)…

    My brother has a “Cat” phone, it’s pretty cool, is tough, and preloaded with a bunch of Caterpillar tools. I thought it was a special promo item, turns out anyone can buy them…

    How about a Toyota Trucks phone…the Tacoma a 4 inch and the Tundra a 5 inch. I would have Tundra in black with BB10 OS.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      I like the Toyota phone idea. Maybe you should find some investors!


      • toyrulz says:

        The TRD-PRO edition of each model would be rugged and mil-spec drop, vibration and waterproof.

        Hey, Porche has BlackBerry models… for those who can afford them, why not a Toyota line. BlackBerry owns QNX and I’m pretty sure QNX is in Toyotas but???

      • toyrulz says:

        As for the investors idea… I hear that a lot… more an idea guy than a risk taker. I was once payed hourly to come up with ideas and advance them to prototypes and patents… was nice while lasted, but jobs for dreamers are hard to come by and I have bills to pay with no time or money to take cool ideas further than sharing them so I may benefit by having cooler stuff that made others rich later.

  7. mk says:

    one word = NO

    Just one more gadget to fail = faulty push button start/stop.

    Am sure there are MORE issues with this than an old fashioned ignition switch.

    Yet another way for Toyota to charge another 500 in base msrp and make a killing.

    Doesn’t anyone feel these trucks are becoming WAY too expensive and WAY too many features NOT needed nor wanting?

    I bought a 2014 BASE GLS hyunda santa fe LWB FWD was all I would ever want on a vehicle. For 3 grand more each there were 2 packages is all to pick from for accessories both having push button start. Have heard failures on some push button starts plus if remote batteries go too weak, then push button won’t work correct? So, in 3-4 years tops you will be stranded since remote battery nearby is dead and if you had a key, NO problems.

    • toyrulz says:

      I agree with MK (except his fondness of hyundai), there is something to be said for analog mechanical switches. However, most of these have chipped keys which is basically a two-tier system that combines unique ID code with a manual switch (i.e., not that different than a fob and button). You could turn the ignition with a screw driver (breaking lock) and truck won’t start because chip is not there. This chip is basically a passive NFC tag (gets power from the truck). On/off buttons can fail, but so can ignition switches that are more complex.

      In theory, the cost should be lower than current systems, and more secure due to potential encryption and rolling code tech. The marketers may use it to help justify a higher price anyway, but it would be a lie unless they backed it with proof R&D beyond amateur App developer skills was necessary. I would still find it hard to believe and not pay extra for it – I bet one call from Toyota CEO to BlackBerry CEO would have BlackBerry develop it for free if implemented to enough vehicles (perhaps with contract that ads mention BlackBerry Secure).

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      Hi MK!

      Nice to have you back. Or maybe I finally wrote an article that struck a nerve with you…


  8. mk says:

    not striking a nerve, just sick of paying extra in a somewhat limited base model vehicle of any kind for stuff I would never use nor want. Even the new 2014 tundra’s entune system is not cracked up to what it should be. The speakers are junk even worse than 2013 tundra’s and the voice recognition is no better than in 2013 tundra’s. My 2 cents since is about all it’s worth.

    Improve engine/tranny and mpg and cab/bed configs vs. gadgets that may look cool on the outside but won’t last.

    Even Hyundai (yah you don’t know what your missing toyrulz) has as standard eqmt. heated BOTH cloth front bucket seats in the base GLS LWB FWD model. Wife loves them but serves a purpose in winter. I would rather have heated cloth bucket seats vs. heated leather bucket seats. neat idea which to me is useful and will be used.

    I am sort of surprised the new Tundra as a stand alone option doesn’t have power heated cloth bucket seats. Why do you have to get the 4K or more limited with leather package to get heated seats in leather no less?

  9. breathing borla says:

    I agree tim,

    I love the keyless enter n’ go system on the ram, works perfect.

    also like the all-lock system. one push locks and unlocks all the doors, ramboxes, and tailgate.

    I never have to take my keys out of my pocket, very nice…

    it has several fails safes built in as well. Key hidden in the fob if it doesn’t work and if the battery dies on the fob and can tap the fob on the start button and it will work.

  10. toyrulz says:

    Unreal… was talking to my boss today, tells me his son is having problems with his Dodge. Where he parks at work may have some interfering radio frequency so the fob won’t work. He has to use key to get in, and put fob to start switch – but it doesn’t always work, he has been towed home twice in last 2 weeks. Dealer can’t reproduce so no problem, no fix. Duh, the frequencies are not present at the dealerships location.

    No, it’s not low batteries.

    This would annoy me enough to sell fast. My Dad had a 2003 Malibu that had a known security issue with its chip key, where it would often refuse to start because it would not recognise the chip. He had to leave key in for like 15-20 minutes before trying to start it again (apparently the recommended work around). If I had to wait 20 minutes to start a car, I would drive it to trade it in when it did. It was intermittent, and Dad was retired and like the car so…

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      Wow, I haven’t heard of an interference issue with the key fob, but it makes complete sense. And I’m with you, I would have been pissed!


  11. toyrulz says:

    Actually, starting to get concerned with wireless reliability… I have one of those rolling code garage door openers… we were hanging out in driveway and door closed by itself…

    Ever hear the urban myth there was only 14 (or?) different keys to a GM… my buddy was at a kids birthday party with his Yukon, lady parked next to him was locked out of her Chevy, what the heck, let’s try my key, it opened the door “unreal!”

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