Modern technology has provided pickup owners with some amazing tools, like GPS navigation. Unfortunately, it’s also given us plenty of rubbish ones, as well. From sunglasses holders to gesture controls for your infotainment system, the automotive industry is littered with plenty of ideas that should never have seen the light of day.
Even though pickups are highly engineered and the design process alone can take years, occasionally, it seems like Homer Simpson had a hand in it. Pickups are a balance between what people want and new technology that has been developed and is not yet widely accepted. And although we all have features in our pickups that we don’t use, some are universally useless.
Some of the worst mistakes occurred long ago, like the Cadillac from the 50s that had a minibar in the glove compartment. However, as technology advances at a rapid pace, there are new opportunities for car manufacturers to push new features that nobody wants onto consumers in an effort to get any kind of edge over their competitors.
Of course, not all new car technology is bad and companies like Toyota and Ford have absolutely dominated the market by identifying what their customers actually want and then building it well. But that’s not what this article is about. We have identified 20 standard features in pickup trucks that aren’t of any use to anyone. Whether these will become history remains to be seen, but one thing they all have in common is that pickup owners will never use them again.
20 The Window In The Rear Window
Pickup manufacturers have run out of places to put windows and have now started putting windows inside windows. That’s right, it’s now possible to buy a pickup with a window inside your rear window. It seems like it might be useful at first, but it ultimately serves as an entry point for mosquitos when offroading, a way for mud and dust to enter the cab, an open door for people to sneak into, and a dangerous way to haul oversized goods. Toyota has since introduced a rear window that slides completely out of the way but the tiny sliding window inside the rear window is about as useful as an accordion player on a deer hunt.
19 Power And Automatic Tailgates
Another idea that shows pickup manufacturers have too much time on their hands is the conception of power and automatic tailgates. The way it works is that you press a button, either on a remote control or on the tailgate itself, then stand awkwardly off to the side while waiting for your automatic tailgate to gently glide open, hoping that nobody is watching and silently judging you. It’s a mystery as to what problem they’re actually trying to solve by implementing this, or what exactly was wrong with the old way of opening your tailgate. This is a feature that was copied from luxury SUVs, without any thought about whether people would actually use it.
18 Lane Keeping System
Lane keeping, or lane departure warning, systems do exactly what they say. If the car starts drifting out of its lane, it either sends an audio warning to the driver or corrects the action itself. There are several problems with this but the most serious is that studies have shown that owners of cars with lane keeping systems display overconfidence and less situational awareness when driving. Secondly, drivers generally find the constant warnings and chirpings of driver assists annoying and more often than not, just switch them off entirely. Thirdly, if you need help to keep a two-ton machine between the lines, then it’s probably time to hand in your driver's license and buy a bicycle.
17 Collision Warning
A quick caveat: I’m all for improving vehicle safety, just not at the abdication of driver responsibility. Collision warnings have a similar issue as lane departure systems, whereby they allow people to place their safety in the hands of technology and thus, leading to people being less alert behind the wheel. Collision warning systems that are integrated with automatic braking are even worse because they're giving the driver even less control over their vehicle. There have been multiple reports of this technology giving false readings, causing a vehicle to suddenly brake, which is extremely dangerous in heavy traffic. Even when it's not connected to the vehicle's brakes, false readings can cause driver distraction. Again, most people tend to switch this function off.
16 Mirror Spotlights
Mirror spotlights came out of regulations in Europe, which stated that all vehicles must have turn signals in their side mirrors to fill a blind spot where neither front nor rear indicators can be seen. Pickup manufacturers, not being able to leave a good idea alone, then decided to turn them into lights, which don’t illuminate anything useful whatsoever. Even worse, they can only be switched on or off from inside the vehicle, diminishing their potential usefulness even further. This was probably a good idea that got lost in translation somewhere because having an exterior mounted light that could help you see an address as you’re driving past actually sounds like it could be very useful.
15 Angle And Tilt Gauges
Also known as an inclinometer, these useless devices are commonly seen in airplanes, where they do have a legitimate function. The problem with having these in a pickup is that it doesn’t display the approach and departure angles until you’re actually on the incline, and by then, you’ve already committed and it’s too late to back out. The only thing it is useful for is bragging to your friends about how you maxed it out and lived to tell the tale. It’s also useful for scaring small children who have never been offroading before but so few pickup owners take their trucks into locations where they may get some use out of it that it really should be limited to being an aftermarket feature.
14 Key Fobs
The key fob made this list because it’s pretty useless in its current form. An essential part of car security, for tradesmen, farmers, and others who use their pickups as commercial vehicles, it’s just a small and expensive piece of technology that is easily lost. A major design flaw, however, exposes the owner to significant risk as key fobs make it possible to start a pickup's engine without being inside the pickup. This is precarious for obvious reasons, especially when children may potentially be inside or around the vehicle. It also increases the chance of walking away from the vehicle while accidentally leaving the engine running. The key fob is a feature that has been widely implemented without enough thought about the problems it creates.
13 Remote Starter
If you are a pedal-to-the-metal kind of driver, you may possibly benefit from a remote starter, but for the everyday driver, it’s just not worth having. For pickups with manual transmissions, it’s completely pointless because most owners will leave their car parked in first gear. At best, the remote starter is one more thing that can go wrong and there have been reports of these malfunctioning and trying to start a pickup that’s already running, eventually wearing out the starter motor. A common justification for having remote starters is to have the defroster running without needing to be in the car but without the coolant circulating for long enough, the defroster won’t work anyway.
12 Massaging Seats
Massaging seats aren’t available in every pickup but they are starting to proliferate into luxury models and they are about as useful as Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's hairbrush. The theory is that on a long drive, people tend to get aches and pains. Instead of stopping and getting out of the pickup and stretching or walking around, the massaging seat will work those knots out and leave you feeling refreshed. The reality, however, is very different. Massaging seats are largely ineffectual because effective massage relies on tactile feedback. But of course, a computer controlled massage seat can’t do that, so these remain nothing but an expensive and futile gimmick that increase driver drowsiness.
11 Panoramic Sunroofs
There’s no denying that panoramic sunroofs look amazing, but having one on your pickup is akin to driving about in a miniature greenhouse as the sun streams in through the massive window you now have on your roof. The second problem is that vehicle manufacturers try to keep heavy equipment as low as possible for safety reasons and to improve vehicle efficiency. So it’s not the smartest idea to put a 200-pound weight on the highest point of your pickup. It’s an even worse idea if you go off-roading. It also reduces the structural integrity of the vehicle, so if the previous point does occur, the consequences may be somewhat more serious.
10 Interior Floor Mats With Carpet
When people started wanting luxury pickups, it created a problem for the manufacturers. With a premium product, people expected something with a bit more prestige than rubber floor mats but at the same time, they expected some level of protection. After all, it is still a pickup truck. In a halfhearted approach to appease everyone, they created a weird hybrid. Instead of getting rubber floor mats which are easy to clean, buyers of luxury pickups get a small square of carpet with an even smaller square of rubber in the middle. This has ensured that neither buyers who wanted carpet nor buyers who wanted rubber floor mats are 100% happy.
9 Engine Hour Counters
Engine hour counters have become more common in pickups, for no sensible reason besides posturing. Heavy commercial and industrial machines such as front-end loaders will rely on engine counters instead of mileage to perform scheduled maintenance because it offers greater accuracy to true operating life. This is because of the variety of tasks that commercial vehicles perform. Pickups don’t perform the same variety of tasks, nor are they generally sat idling for long periods of time; just one hour of idling can be equal to 30 miles of driving. They are particularly unnecessary to people who don’t realize how to use them correctly and therefore, we can’t seem their popularity taking off.
8 Dual Glove Compartments
It wasn’t too long ago that pickups came with a huge glove compartment, large enough for the owner’s manual, a jacket, some tools, a map book (remember those?), and a packed lunch. Inexplicably, however, as pickups have gotten larger in size, glove compartments have become smaller—to the point where some can’t even hold the owner’s manual. Even worse, instead of getting one large glove compartment, manufacturers think that pickup owners will be happier with two tiny ones that often only serve as a way to hide the trunk release button. If you’re lucky, you might just have room to keep your driver's license there!
7 Rear Folding Seats
We must be clear about this: having split folding seats in an SUV, or any vehicle which seats more than five people, is useful and a great example of clever design enhancing functionality. Fold-down seats in a crew cab pickup, however, are not. This doesn’t give the owner any extra room whatsoever, and even reduces the height of the storage area, making it smaller overall. Some manufacturers have realized this and are starting to make the rear seat easily removable but manufacturers like Chevrolet insist that their customers want a rear folding seat. The only time that rear folding seats would be any use whatsoever is for cleaning those sections of the rear window that aren’t visible anyway because of the rear headrests.
6 Sport Mode
Sport mode, engaged by pressing an optimistically labeled button or scrolling through driver settings on a screen, is a gimmick that has been included in most cars since the 90s, but nobody has ever sat down and considered why. What they are supposed to do is give a sharper throttle response, more direct steering, and stiffer suspension. Well, that’s the theory anyhow, which leads to the obvious question of why a pickup truck would need to perform any of these functions. People don’t take their pickups to racetracks on the weekend and driving around with stiffer, race-tuned suspension is the quickest way to regular chiropractor appointments.
5 Fake Fender Vents
Not only do fake vents look terrible but they serve no purpose whatsoever and manufacturers should stop putting these on their cars immediately. BMW, Honda and Toyota, I’m looking at you. Apparently invented by the same person who bought us the DVD rewinder, fake vents make a non-sporty car look even less sporty and are usually used to accentuate some gaudy piece of fake chrome. Have manufacturers ever considered why a pickup would need all this imaginary airflow? Is it a cost-cutting measure? It’s definitely not because it looks good—because it doesn’t. The only thing worse than fake fender vents are stickers which are fake fake fender vents.
4 Tiny Storage Compartments
Pickups used to be relatively simple: a V8 engine, a car-based interior that can handle light commercial use, and a bed at the rear. But because manufacturers are geniuses at telling consumers what they want, the simple pickup has become infinitely more complicated and today's models have more hidden storage compartments than Pablo Esobar's private jet. Designers try to make use of every inch of space available, even turning seat cushions into storage hatches. The issue with this design is that even though there are dozens of storage spaces, they are almost too small to be of much use, and there are just so many that you need some kind of map to find them all.
3 Grocery Bag Hooks
An ancient throwback to a time when everything was packaged in a plastic bag, grocery hooks are an obsolete item that we no longer need. To be honest, we probably never needed them in the first please, either. A pickup has more than enough places to put groceries, like in the bed or in the rear, without having to balance several bags awkwardly on one or two hooks. Nor does the average pickup owner want to sift through bags, sorting through and rebagging important items so they can finally say they got some use out of their grocery hook. When these finally get removed, nobody will miss them and few people will even realize they're gone.
2 Economy Versions Of The Engine
As pickups get bigger, manufacturers have started offering smaller, more economical versions of their motors. Even though V8s get pretty good gas mileage nowadays and turbodiesels are more efficient than ever before, some companies, like Ford, have considered that consumers might want the largest possible pickup they can buy with the smallest possible engine available. Now, we understand that in some markets, South East Asia especially, the Ford F-150 is incredibly popular and people don’t want V8s for various reasons. Even so, putting a 2.7-liter V6 in a pickup that weighs over 4,600 pounds makes little sense to anyone.
1 Seat Belt Warnings
Search the internet for the phrase ‘seat belt warnings’ and you’ll notice hundreds of results from people asking how to disable them. The reason for this is that a college degree in mechanical engineering isn’t required to figure out if someone is wearing their seatbelt or not. Typically, seat belt warning systems don’t take into account people who drive pickups on their farm 99% of the time and who generally won’t wear a seatbelt because they’re driving around their private property at walking speed. There have been published studies to determine if a more aggressive warning system is needed but for now, manufacturers have decided their current ones are annoying enough.
Sources: Ford, Chevrolet, Ram Trucks, and Toyota Nation.