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A Plea to Automakers

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On: Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 2:23PM | By: Nick Bakewell


A Plea to Automakers

Purveyors of cars, big and small, I want to have a word with you about your business models. In reading through the often lyrical and always entertaining Doug DeMuro’s back catalogue of posts (see www.playswithcars.com), I found a similar entreaty to car manufacturers from a likeminded enthusiast driver: sell us more manuals.

That’s all well and good, but for pure driving involvement, for the actual honing and development of driving skill, there is no substitute for rowing your own. We may not make up a huge percent of the market share, but car enthusiasts are still a pretty populous breed compared with many other niche segments. Just like other hobbyists, we’re willing to fork over more dough than is reasonable or necessary to indulge our passion of choice.

Currently, there are scant few vehicles still available with manual gearboxes, and with (apparently) good reason. With emissions regulations getting ever tighter, it’s incumbent on automakers to ensure that their cars are best equipped to hit the increasingly small targets mandated by various government agencies. Hence the development of automatic and semi-auto gearboxes, designed to work with the engine to ensure that only the minutest of environmentally-unfriendly gasses escape out the back of their newer cars. At the other end of the spectrum, we have Ferrari and Porsche, whose wholesale adoption of seamless dual-clutch systems are solely in the name of performance; they argue that on a track, these gearboxes improve lap times and are better suited to stroking the ego of every would-be Fernando Alonso who forks over the cash for a premium marque supercar.

With that in mind, here’s my plea: sell us manual gearboxes. Please! We’re willing to pay more, happy to, even; certainly enough to offset the development and engineering costs of manufacturing a manual option on certain makes and models. BMW has recognized this, and consequently has decided to sell the upcoming M3 and M4 with a manual option; you can already get one on the latest M5, and look at the response! The fanboys went nuts; the corporate machine actually listened, and it’s generated outsize amounts of positive press. Car enthusiasts are a pretty outspoken bunch, especially given the proliferation of social media, and a fiercely loyal one at that. Car makers already charge extra for other performance-enhancing options and features, so why not allow those who desperately want a manual option to purchase one at a premium? The market is there; I guarantee that you’ll see a return on your investment, if not monetarily, then certainly in terms of good press and good will.

Promise me you’ll think about it, at least? It would make a lot of people who are already devoted to your myriad brands that much happier and that much more loyal.




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