Features Disappearing From Today's Automobiles

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Images: Author

A conversation amongst some of the members here at Discovery concerning new technologies in the automotive industry got me to “waxing nostalgic” a bit as I thought about some of the features we have said goodbye to recently or some that are on the endangered list.

Of course some of the obvious ones are vinyl roofs and power antennas (automated carwashes did a number on those “luxuries”) while others fading into the sunset may be a bit more subtle.

Seen any keyholes on the outside of the shiniest new cars at the auto show? Not too many manufacturers are using this feature anymore. You won’t find a place to insert a key on the side of your car and most trunklids have done away with them too, opting for “keyless” entry as a selling tool and quite the convenience, especially in foul weather.

Once inside you still may not be able to locate a slot to place metal prong. Seems push-button start is all the rage and taking the auto industry by storm. I personally found this convenience useful during my healing process from shoulder surgery as pressing a button with your arm in a sling is much easier and less painful than inserting and subsequently turning a key.

Want your new car with a CD player? Those are going the way of cassette tapes nowadays as new vehicles arrive with the likes of satellite radio, hard disk drive jukeboxes and connections (wired and wireless) for playing from your mobile device. I mean, who even has an iPod anymore as smartphones can do all that AND offer communications and right at your fingertips or even voice command.

And in case you have been living in a cave for quite a while, roadmaps are just about completely extinct and have been replaced with “navigation systems” and GPS devices that deliver digital mapping (including directions on how to get there without even having to stop and ask).

At least we no longer have to worry about hubcaps falling off – those things fell off automakers’ radar over the past couple of decades as just about every vehicle (even entry-level models) arrive with alloy, not steel, wheels.

An old favorite of mine was bench seating, especially up front in the family wagon or pickup. I mean, what girl (or guy) is gonna want to slide over and sit on the center console at the drive-in movies (yes they still have some of those around, thank you and we love going to them). Very few trucks offer seating all the way across and I cannot think of any cars that offer this anymore. Pity.

While column shifters are still found in most pickups, most brands have gone the way of a center console shifter and with the proliferation of multi-speed automatic gearboxes and CVTs, many automakers are doing away with manual shift and that dreaded clutch pedal – at least here in the states.

Belts. Yes, those black flexible things that go ’round and ’round under the hood and tend to jump off or break every once in a while. Belts are going bye-bye as engineers are designing electrically-powered accessories for the engine compartment – steering, A/C compressors, fans (those went electric long ago) – even water pumps.

Hardly any new cars these days come with an ashtray and many no longer have lighters – that device is now a power outlet to charge or power up those cool expensive gadgets we all run around with. Quite a few vehicles today even offer 110 volts in the mobile environment in case you need to finish shaving or drying/styling your hair on the commute to work. (Unfortunately the latter no longer applies in my case.)

How about something we take so much for granted for our safety and peace of mind: The spare tire and jack. Fuhgetaboutit…those too are going away, and being replaced with an air pump and can of tire sealer in the name of weight savings and fuel economy. Pricier cars also come with a 1-800 number for roadside assistance, let’s just hope those folks aren’t in a remote area without cell service.

For those of you who still have some of these features in your vehicle enjoy them while you can as you will one day be telling your kids and grandkids about these “good old days” when we cars still came with those things.

One last thing before I go get my hanky – ya’all remember that little lever on the bottom of the rearview mirror? You know, the one you flip when that jerk with their high beams on pulls up behind you? Yessir, thanks to auto-dimming mirrors both inside and outside vehicles these days the folks who built and installed those little levers are out of work. I raise my glass to those unsung heroes…

UPDATED: We have had a couple of late nominations in this category of features disappearing from new cars today.

The first is manual window cranks. True, you hardly ever see these one-arm workouts except in the very entry-level model vehicles and in MY2012 the cheapest Nissan Versa still uses this technology to keep costs down and upsells, well, up.

The second item nominated is door lock buttons, the ones that pop up just above the handle, the ones thieves have used for years to break into your car with a coat hanger. These days they have either moved to the inside door handle panel or at the least lost the mushroom head on top to deter thieves (and well-meaning locksmiths and wrecker drivers when you lock your keys in your vehicle).

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