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Why Don’t All Cars Remember Your Last Personal Settings?

As a freelance automotive writer, there are certain perks of the job that are great. One of the best is press cars. A manufacturer drops a car off at my house with a full tank of gas and says “have at it.” The full week of living with the car really expands one’s thoughts — and really allows the reviewer to pick up the little details you could otherwise miss. A good example is the VW volume knob I had an issue with a couple months ago. Well, I’m back with another minor detail complaint, but this time it spans multiple manufacturers.

Why is it that some car companies are dead-set on the car resetting your last personal settings?

Some people might not really notice this, as they’re used to it by now. I’ve found so far that Mazda, Kia and BMW are all the under impression that if you wanted items like heated or ventilated seat on your last drive, you no longer would like these personal settings selected. With more options, this problem is even more pronounced. In the Kia Optima Turbo SX and the Mazda6 Signature, the cars were fitted with both heated seats and a heated steering wheel. This means the process of turning on the car to leave my driveway in the winter is this: Depress the brake, push the start button, press the heated seat button, press the heated steering wheel button, then finally put the car into reverse. Every time.

Safety items such as traction control, lane-keeping assist and automatic braking make sense to not automatically turn off/reset. You could forget that these items were turned off — and if someone was injured, it could become a liability for these manufacturers. But why can’t the car remember simple comfort and personalization settings?

I discussed this with someone who works for the corporate arm of a manufacturer, and the first reason they came up with was most cars now have buttons rather than physical switches. My counter was that my current press car, a 2019 Toyota CH-R, has a button, but it still remembers my last personal setting. The only conclusion we could come up with is that’s just the way the companies decided to do it.

If you’ve made it this far down my rant … I thank you. If you think I am being petty (yet again), I agree — but my job is to find these small details you wouldn’t notice on a test drive. If you’re going to live with a car, you need to make sure that you don’t buy one that annoys you. This wouldn’t stop me from buying an otherwise perfect car, but it could be a make a difference in a tight race.

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  1. Living in the great (debatable) state of Tennessee, a car not automatically leaving the heated seats and whatnot on is a blessing. This last week, for instance, we had temps that ranged from 15 all the way up to 67 in the course of a couple of days, so I might have driven home one night at 30 degrees with the heated seats on and the next morning I could wake up and it’s 60 degrees with absolutely no need to have heated seats.

    I’d rather have to turn them on when I need them (since needing them would make me think about them) than remember to turn them off when I don’t (since I’m not likely thinking about my heated seats when its 60)

    • Tennessean here. I set my GTI to keep heated seats on when the car is re-started. 

      There is no debate about Tennessee being a great state.
    • Plot twist… I also happen to live in the great state of Tennessee. I will defend my point forever. For example, the RX450h I am driving this week remembers the heated seat but not the heated steering wheel. Noooooo!

  2. I left my Audi S4 for a month, the last time I drove it for a month I used the heated seat, when I came back from my vacation I turned the car on and the heated seats turned on again. BMW’s will leave the heated seats on if you come back to the car within 20 or 30 minutes, after that you have to turn the seats back on.

  3. My car keeps the seat heater on, and I wish it didn’t. My wife always has the seat heater on so whenever she’s been in the car either as a passenger or driver, I have to remember to check. Shortly after getting the car, there were times I’d drive around for several days heating the passenger seat for no reason. 

    I would guess that more companies will move toward automatically turning off accessories like this since every 100th of a mpg makes a difference. 
  4. Interesting note: My 2016 Mazda3 (and my wife’s 2016 CX-5) both leave the heated seat settings, etc. in place when we come back to them. Even more puzzling is the current Mazda3 still does while the current CX-5 (also the Mazda6 and CX-9) doesn’t.  So…some time recently, Mazda decided to change this and I’m guessing that change will make its way through the rest of the line-up with the new iterations.

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