Gini Dietrich

Changing Our Habits for a Car?

By: Gini Dietrich | January 17, 2010 | 

Nissan Alright. I know this isn’t a typical blog post for me. But I need some help. And I thought, “Who better to ask than the blog readers?”

I was in Atlanta last week. I rented a nice little Nissan Altima. It was a hybrid car. I liked it. But I’m having a problem with the car keys and I can’t get past it.

The car doesn’t have a place for you to hang your keys. You tap the on/off button with the tip of the key, put your foot on the brake, and push the button. The car starts. And you throw your keys in the cupholder.

First time I thought, “Okay. I can deal with this. If I have to use the keys to turn off the car, I won’t leave them in the cupholder.”


You don’t have to tap the button to turn off the car. You just push the button and off it goes! Yes, you do have to have the keys in order to lock the doors, but most human beings (at some point) will get out of the car in a hurry and rush off without realizing they don’t have their keys and didn’t lock their door.

Are automakers trying to get us to change our habits, in an effort to become more secure? Or am I totally missing the point?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

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  • A friend of mine had a similar type of key for her Benz. She just kept it in her purse and when she approached the car it unlocked and she just pressed the button. So she never had to take the keys out of her purse etc. I am thinking yours had the same functionality but you didn’t know it?

  • Gini Dietrich

    So if you’re a guy, you just leave the key in your front pocket? With the Nissan, you still have to start it with the key. So leaving it in your purse or in your pocket doesn’t work. I’m confused.

  • I really just want to know how you took that picture with both your hands in use. With your teeth?


  • Is there a chance that you didn’t have to use the key to start it? Because needing the key and then not needing it is just silly. I may have to do research now and find the answer. If that is the case #nissanwhatonearthwhereyouthinkingimeanseriously

  • Here you go – this is from a review on the car (

    “The “Intelligent Key” system arms the car for starting. The fob must be in the vehicle- -in a pocket or purse is fine. Then the car starts with just a foot on the brake and a push of the Start/Stop button.”

    So it looks like you never have to take the key out, like Nick said. Plus, it looks like they’re also using the same picture of your hands on the site! 🙂

    Special Bonus: You can also learn the White Teeth Trick from this page. It looks like it involves shooting blue lasers into your mouth from close range.

  • I am sure one of these days I will be wrong about something :). It is hard being a man, always being right :o).

    Now, you may have to go back, re-rent the car and get the whole Nissan experience.

  • Mike K

    My personal opinion, is they didn’t ask the simple question of what do I now do with my key. I see it all the time with my marketing department. There are a lot of very simple things (the duh things) that are overlooked or just not questioned because they are so obvious. I’m ashamed to say, it would have taken me a while to figure out how to even start that car.

  • I drive a Hybrid for the delivery company and there is no key just a remote and you keep it in your pocket and push on brake and push a button. Not a big problem once you get use to it. I didn’t like the power or lack there of while driving. Good idea but has it’s down fall I think.
    How did you take the picture anyway?

    Trot the optimist.

  • Paula Lima

    What a fantastic feature! Now, don’t they have “what do I do with my keys?” in the manual 🙂 That would be hilarious. Having lived most of my life in the big cities of Brazil, where a locked car still gets stole (I hate to say it) I don’t think I ever let my car open. I’ve locked them in the trunk once, but things happen. I don’t really know what I would do with the keys Gini.Maybe they should bip once you turn off the car or say “remember to take me with you”

  • mihai visan

    ok, how about you put the keys back in your pocket where they were in the first place before you started the car. or in the purse, whatever. if you’re worried about little crap like this, what are you going to do in 20 years from now? technology-wise. in case you’re 80, obviously you don’t have to worry about it

  • Gini Dietrich

    I definitely tried starting it without the key. I had the car for three days and I was obsessed with how it worked. You can’t start the car without the key, but you can turn it off. I tried a bunch of different things, but I did not look it up in the manual (sigh…Paula, you’d think I was a guy).

    I think Mike is right – they forgot to ask the obvious question. Either let it work like other fob keys or WHERE DO THEY PUT THE KEYS?

    And…I didn’t take that picture. I got it off the Nissan site. Dorks.

  • Maybe Nissan expects you to wear it on a chain around your neck like some did in 2nd grade. I might be able to find it if you want me to send it to you, Gini.

  • You tap the on/off button with the tip of the key …

    This is not a required step. Just leave the keys in your purse or your pocket. Then you won’t leave them in your car

  • If you have to put your key in the cupholder, where do you put the cup? 🙂

    I experienced the same thing with the Prius, although the Prius system is somewhat different. It uses proximity of the key to the car to determine whether it should lock or unlock the vehicle as well as whether the car can be started.

    Of course that makes you susceptible to pranks like these: 🙂

  • Doesn’t make sense that you need the key when they can make it work just by having the item in your possession. That’s the trend of the future, while you still need to possess some sort of physical item, like a key or credit card, you shouldn’t have to do anything with it, just be near the receiving device.

  • Yeah, I think the design, here, is for you just to leave your keys in your purse or in your pocket. If you’re rushing out of the car and a) forget your keys and b) forget to lock your door, then aren’t you really just as likely to do that with regular keys? I don’t know how many times I’ve turned the car off, taken the keys out, fumbled around to get my portfolio, etc. and stuff out of the passengers seat and in the mean time have set my keys down in the cupholder. Still the same probability for error.

    I think this is a great feature, personally. Remember the basic tenets of full security — its a combination of what you have and what you know. If they really wanted to step this up, you’d have some kind of code you entered before starting even if the key is in your pocket/purse.

    Jamie Sandford

  • Gini Dietrich

    Jamie and I just had an interesting, offline, conversation about this. Perhaps it’s because it’s a rental car?! But if it were my car, it would actually work to keep the key in my purse. That I get. The whole having to use the key to start the car made no sense. But it could be they changed something with the rental cars…in case you kept the keys.

  • As someone who constantly locked the keys in her first car (a 1980 boatmobile) and had to start keeping a spare car-door key in her wallet, I am perplexed by what you describe, Gini. It actually sounds like a step BACKWARD. hmm.

  • Hi Gini and for the record thanks for blowing through our treehouse for a few minutes while in Atlanta 😉

    I dive a Genesis a bit and it has a little compartment in the dash that holds the key with a perfect little click. This is great for keeping it where it belongs and it does offer some functionality too. Since I am manly though I generally leave it in my pocket.

    the slot is very inconspicuous and one would easily miss it so I looked to see if the Altima has such a thing. Doesnt appear to as I found no mention here in the manual

    As it happens a friend of mine here in Atlanta had surgery last Jan. and her sister from Chicago was here renting an Altima. When we brought the sick sis home the nurse-sis had to move her rental car from the driveway so we could park near the door and get the patient into the house. I’d never heard such cussin’ and a potty-mouth rant as she couldnt get the car started and stress was high. Later we figured out that your foot must be on the brake pedal to start it. All these points should be made to us old and poor farts who drive more mature machines.

  • Gini Dietrich

    Randy! I should have had you look at it. It was driving me crazy at the time. You would have heard another potty mouth rant from me.

  • Hey, I’m still trying to figure out how to get the keys back from my kids. I think my son took some keys to Iraq. Some poor private is wondering why his Bradley has Toyota Sienna door lock on the key chain…

  • Gini,
    I have this feature in my car and I LOVE it. I am able to leave my key in my purse which has to be somewhere in the front seat of the vehicle to have the car start. I never have to dig in my purse to find the keys and it has a backup in case for some odd reason the keyless ignition doesn’t work. So, my husband for example, doesn’t want to leave his keys in the cup holder while he drives because he’s worried he’ll forget them. So in the key fob is an actual key. You just press a button and it comes out. So really, you have the option of driving keyless (where they just have to be somewhere in the front two seats), or driving with the key out like a regular key. Also, one other fail-proof system they’ve come up with…you can’t lock the door to your car if your keys are inside. It’s impossible. I personally love the feature!


  • Gini Dietrich

    Ah ha! Thanks to @TMNinja for sending me this LA Times article, which describes both what I discuss above, as well as the potential safety hazards of the new FOB keys.