Starting your car by remote control used to be a feature only the Tony Sopranos of the world wanted, but now the idea is starting to take off.

Special aftermarket installations have been available for decades for customers willing to put up with the expense and big, clunky transmitters.

But if the feature is offered as a low-cost factory-installed option, auto makers think a lot of consumers will like the idea of starting their cars with their key fob. In fact, there’s even a new industry buzzword to describe it: You don’t start your car by remote control, you "pre-condition" it.

Certainly you don’t have to explain to anybody from Michigan how nice it is get into a toasty warm car on winter mornings or a cool, dehumidified one in the summer.

Suppliers such as Novi, MI-based Omron Automotive Electronics say inexpensive transmitters small enough to fit into a key fob and powerful enough to start your car from a distance are ready for production, and the feature may be available as a factory option as early as next year.