The History of the Car Key

January 21st, 2022 by

For decades, mechanical car keys dominated the industry. Now they’re nearly extinct.


Have you ever stopped to think just how far the car key has come? While it’s something we’re all familiar with (mostly tracking down the lost car keys), it’s changed more than you may realize. 

In 1949, Chrysler unveiled the first car key that could start the engine all on it’s own. Before this, the key was merely used as a lock of sorts to control the electrical circuit. Now, people could use their key to start the entire vehicle all at once. Shortly after in 1965, Ford became the first to introduce double-sided keys, allowing the key to be inserted while facing either way. While this seems like the basic form today, it was quite the revolutionary moment for a while. This was also around the time that locking a vehicle’s doors with the key became available – prior to this, vehicles required two sets of keys. 

The 1990’s became the largest evolution point, allowing for the key fob to come into play. Now, not only could you start and lock your doors with one key, you could unlock your vehicle from a distance using a receiver. As the technology developed, we started seeing new capabilities, such as opening the trunk and starting the engine remotely. 

Now, the mechanical key is starting to fade from the narrative, allowing for the keyless entry and push-button start system. In fact, according to consumer auto research firm Edmunds, 91% of 2019 model-year vehicles had keyless ignitions. That’s up from 72% in 2014. Some drivers now have the option to store a digital key on their wireless devices, eliminating the need for a physical key at all. 

What are your thoughts on the idea of car keys today? Do you prefer the mechanical key or the current digital trend? The History of the Car Key

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