A Brief History of a Glorious Automobile Option: Heated Seats
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A Brief History of a Glorious Automobile Option: Heated Seats

A Brief History of a Glorious Automobile Option: Heated Seats

The winter blues are really starting to sink in for me. The holiday season is now officially over and we are cruising deep into January. I’m not the biggest fan of the winter season, but something I do enjoy this time of year is one of the greatest features ever added to the automobile: heated seats. You may think that heated seats are just a luxury item or a novelty that hasn’t been around that long.

The other night I was out driving and the dashboard thermometer read 11 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrr. I cranked the heated seats up to high and started thinking about the cars I used to own that didn’t have heated seats. Like your smartphone, your dishwasher and Netflix, it got me thinking about how we ever lived without these luxuries and particularly, such a wonderful feature to warm yourself in these frigid climates. Obviously the answer is we got along just fine… but I began wondering what car was the first to boast a toasty, warm seat. This would require some research.

I initially guessed it would be a vehicle from the late 80s, likely on the level of Mercedes-Benz. As I delved deep into Google, I realized I could not have been more wrong. I was able to find a heated seat by Saab in 1972. Actually, every Saab model for 1972 featured a heated seat.

The Saab 99

Check out the original press release promoting this new-fangled feature:

The electrically heated driver’s seat, standard in both the Saab 99 and 95 and 96 models, is another exclusive Saab feature for 1972. Built into the seat pad and backrest of the seat, the system heats up automatically and quickly when the ignition is turned on and the interior temperature is below 58 F. A thermostat turns off the heat when the seat temperature reaches 82 F. The heating system is completely safe from electric shock and is not affected by dampness or water that might come in contact with it.

Apparently only the drivers of these Saabs could bask in the heat of their seat. There’s no mention of an option for passengers to enjoy the same comfort.

Upon further research, I was able to locate an even earlier option for heated seats. Cadillac de Ville listed them as an option for $60.20 in 1966. (That’s $448 and some change in today’s dollars.) You can view the digital version of the original sales brochure below, just for fun.

1966 Cadillac Brochure

These days many cars offer heated seats but for the vehicle to be considered luxury, just having heated seats isn’t enough. Many cars offer a heated steering wheel, which is a great option. (Go for it, you won’t regret it!) Mercedes is now offering panel heating, which essentially heats all the areas where your arm may rest. Cooled seats and massaging seats are all the rage now, too.

If you want my honest opinion, we can’t have too many of these features. It’s always nice to get out and drive places you either have to be, or simply want to be, no matter the weather. Being able to do what you want, when you want is one of the true definitions of luxury. Now add “in heated seats” to that phrase and you can do it all in warmth and comfort, as well.

Photos Courtesy: myclassicgarage.com/BMW USA/Pinterest

Phil’s Morning Drive, a web series about cars, is now streaming on Amazon and YouTube.

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  • Albert Zhou
    Posted at 22:29h, 14 March Reply

    Darn… I can not live without heated seats

  • Cindy Zhao
    Posted at 22:31h, 14 March Reply

    Heated seats are the best. I love them

  • Sven Bankel
    Posted at 11:12h, 05 September Reply

    Thanks for clearing that up, always believed Saab were first with heated seats. By the way, the picture is not of Saab 99, it is a Saab 900 three door. The Saab 99 has an ordinary trunk.

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