apropos of nothing, the manual transmission

I’m active on another forum with a lot of members from around the world.  Cars are not this forum’s speciality, but a car thread has popped up in their Off Topic forum, and a European member asked about the source of the US obsession with the automatic transmission.  How hard is it, this person asked, to drive a manual?

Here is my reply:

Pretty hard, I think, especially if you learned to drive after forty and still have to concentrate on keeping everything straight.

Seriously, that’s an extremely interesting question.  The major reason is that knowing how to drive a manual is not required to be licensed here, so why bother?!  But there’s more to it than that.

Part of the reason is that Americans are lazy.  Part of the reason is that in many parts of the States there is no public transportation at all, so almost everyone drives whether they are particularly interested or not.  (I think there is a self selecting factor at work in Europe, where it may not be quite so necessary to drive. So people there who drive are probably more interested in cars and driving than people in the States who may just drive because they have to to get to work or school. ) Part of the reason is that for a long time a manual tranny was cheaper than an auto in any given car, so having an automatic meant you were driving the more expensive model and was therefore a status symbol.

But the main reason is the self fulfilling prophecy.  As individual states stopped demanding people drive a stick to get a license, and automatics became more and more common, there were fewer and fewer people who could drive a stick, and fewer and fewer problems arising from not being able to do so.  Many, if not most models are now available only with an auto, so there is even less opportunity (or incentive) to learn to drive a manual.

Now cars with manuals are so rare that people are actually discouraged from buying them because they have lower resale values *because so few people can drive them*.  And as Mohan says above, finding a manual equipped car even in a line that offers one isn’t easy.  It’s what you call a “feedback loop”. 

(On the other hand few thieves can drive them either, so if you have a manual car, you are very safe from having your car stolen.)

So the manual transmission in the US is the increasingly rare choice of  sportsmen and sportswomen, driving purists, traditionalists, and those who learned to drive somewhere else.

Opinions? Arguements?  And the big question:  can you drive a stick?  If so, do you have a manual tranny in your own daily driver?  Where, when, and why did you learn?  Did you grow up in the time before the proliferation of the automatic, or are you a driving purist?  If you can’t drive a stick, do you wish you could?

Sharkipede

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Published in: on March 9, 2008 at 11:33 pm  Comments (10)  
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The Chicago Auto Show is coming!

Run for the hills!

It’s not that bad.  Actually it’s great.  Huge and crowded.  Lotsa new cars.  Corporate reps you can annoy with your personal opinions.  Expensive disgusting food.  Freebies and giveaways.

We’ll probably be going early next week, and I hope to post a full set of reports afterwards.  But before we go, I thought I’d ask if there is anything specific anyone would like me to look at ? 

Are you curious about a particular car?  Want a recommendation in a particular class (small car under $15 K, big pickup for work? silly little SUV thing that’s really just a station wagon on stilts?) or an award for best concept?  Let my Auto Show be your Auto Show.

You can make your request in a comment, or email it to sharkipede-at-yahoodotcom, or to the regular email if you normally use that. 

I’ve got churros to eat and cars to sit in!

Sharkipede

Published in: on February 8, 2008 at 2:08 am  Comments (3)  
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