Cold Comfort: GM Binning Heated Seats & Steering Wheel in Some Models

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
cold comfort gm binning heated seats steering wheel in some models

While this news initially surfaced late Friday, we feel it is a significant move by General Motors, one which warrants a bit of discussion even after umpteen different car blogs parroted this news over the weekend.

At issue? The current level of global supply chain disruption, of course. With the only chips in Detroit apparently being of the salt & vinegar kind, car companies have been forced to make some tough decisions – but yoinking heated seats is a very substantial change.

Until now, the types of features which have vanished from new vehicles thanks to the global chip shortage have been relatively minor – or have ironically served to bin features that weren’t all that popular to begin with (we’re lookin’ at you, infuriating start/stop on GM 5.3L V8 engines). Sticking with The General, customers have seen their in-dial temperature displays vanish, wireless charging go AWOL, and the aforementioned start/stop systems cease to be a blight on the commuting experience. Some of this decontenting has corresponded with a minor credit on the vehicle’s MSRP, such as a $50 chit for the lack of start/stop.

But biffing heated seats is a whole ‘nuther ball game. It’s one thing to remove the handy digital temperature readout which resides in the center of HVAC dials on vehicles like the Silverado and Sierra. It’s quite something else to bar the inclusion of heated seats, a feature which is anecdotally considered a deal-breaker by wide swaths of consumers. Failing to have bun warmers aboard one’s rig while driving to 5:30 am hockey practice is not popular in certain corners of the country.

Here is a list of affected vehicles, compiled by the pros at The Detroit News.

  • Chevrolet:
    • Malibu: LT, Premier
    • Trailblazer: LT, ACTIV, RS
    • Blazer: LT, RS, Premier
    • Equinox: LT, RS, Premier
    • Traverse: 1LT, 3LT, RS, Premier, High Country (rear heat only)
    • Colorado: LT, Z71, ZR2
    • Silverado 1500: LT, RST, LT Trailboss, LTZ
    • Silverado 2500/3500: LT, LTZ
  • GMC:
    • Canyon: Elevation, AT4, Denali
    • Terrain: SLE, SLT, AT4, Denali
    • Acadia: SLE, SLT, AT4, Denali (rear heat only)
    • Sierra 1500 Limited: SLE, Elevation, SLT, AT4
    • Sierra 2500/3500: SLE, SLT, AT4
  • Buick:
    • Encore GX: Preferred, Select, Essence
    • Envision: Preferred, Essence, Avenir
    • Enclave: Premium, Avenir (rear heat only)
  • Cadillac:
    • XT4: Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport
    • XT5: Luxury, Premium, Sport (rear heat only)
    • XT6: Luxury, Premium, Sport (rear heat only)

That’s, um, a lot of vehicles – including some of their best-sellers. Which, of course, spurs a question: will GM have the foresight to ship these vehicles to markets where heated seats are not a so-called deal breaker? It may be less of a big deal if the trucks on dealer lots in Phoenix don’t have heated seats compared to those being sold in Nebraska. Given the lack of available product, however, it is a safe assumption dealers in all corners of the country will simply take what they can get – heated seats or not.

Also, you can bet your bottom dollar GM isn’t pulling the actual buttons for this feature from dashboards – those switches are far too well integrated to be hauled from affected vehicles as it rolls down the assembly line. That’s simply (and understandably) too much work. Same goes for heated steering wheels. Here’s a list of rigs, again from The Detroit News.

  • Chevrolet:
    • Bolt EV: 1LT, 2LT
    • Bolt EUV: LT, Premier
    • Blazer: RS, Premier
    • Traverse: 3LT, RS, Premier
    • Trailblazer: LT, ACTIV, RS
    • Silverado 1500 LTD: LT, RST, LT Trailboss, LTZ
    • Silverado 2500/3500 HD: LT, LTZ
    • Suburban and Tahoe: LT, RST, Z71, Premier
  • GMC:
    • Acadia: SLE, SLT, AT4
    • Sierra 1500 Limited: SLE, Elevation, SLT, AT4
    • Sierra 2500/3500: SLE,SLT, AT4
    • Yukon and Yukon XL: SLT, AT4
  • Buick:
    • Encore GX: Essence
    • Envision: Essence, Avenir
    • Enclave: Essence, Premium
  • Cadillac:
    • CT4 and CT5: Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport, V-Series
    • XT4: Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport
    • XT5 and XT6: Luxury, Premium without JSE Platinum Package, Sport without JSE Platinum Package

That’s yet another significant list of popular vehicles. Like the heated seat switches, it is highly unlikely GM will swap out a steering wheel absent of the button controlling its warming function. This leads us to an interesting observation that’s sure to cause headaches for used car managers in three to five years’ time: Just because a vehicle has the controls for a particular feature doesn’t mean it is actually equipped. Flash forward to irate customers returning in the dead of winter complaining their heated seats don’t work, or the frustration of an overworked tech trying to diagnose a problem that doesn’t exist. And yes, all these vehicles will have these omissions noted on their Monroney and in the depths of GM’s computer system. Your author has toiled at dealerships for enough years to know it is highly unlikely either of those tools will be deployed while selling a four-year-old Trailblazer at a used car lot.

Still, in the current climate you can bet there will be numerous sales teams happy to see vehicles being built at all – heated seats or not.

[Images: GM]

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2 of 67 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Nov 17, 2021

    This is why Tesla uses touchscreens instead of separate physical controls. Just sayin.

  • Zipper69 Zipper69 on Nov 17, 2021

    If the switches cannot be removed or replaced with blanking inserts the low cost answer would be a self adhesive blank overlay put over them. Or is that "rocket science" in G.M. ?

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.