By on June 14, 2013

sentras

Most estimates put the market share of manual transmission cars in the United States at less than 10 percent. Whether it’s a lowly Nissan Sentra or the mighty Porsche 911 GT3, it seems that Americans just do not want to drive a three pedal transmission. The die hard manual crowd, as vocal as they may be, can’t seem to get anyone to listen to them, for love or money. If only they knew that just a few hours north of Boston, there existed a land where automotive purity was considered as the full contact lap dance.

One of the quirks of the Canadian marketplace is the abundance of “Quebec specials”; stripped out models with no air-conditioning, a manual transmission and little else. It would be unfair to compare these cars to the Nissan Versa S because these are often variants of good cars, like the Honda Fit or the Kia Rio, but other crappier examples are out there as well. Nissan, for example, makes a Sentra with a 6-speed manual and no A/C for sale in Canada and not the United States, solely as a concession to the Quebec market.

Anyone who has peeked inside a row of parked cars in Montreal will know that Quebecers are the last holdout of manual adoration in North America, but the “no A/C” bundle is a bit more puzzling. Contrary to popular belief, it does get hot in Canada. Parts of British Columbia are technically considered desert, while Southern Ontario can be similar to Washington D.C. in the summer (stiflingly humid with temperatures approaching the mid-90s). In most of the country, A/C is a must-have, not only for the summer, but to help quickly defog the front windscreen in the colder months.

Quebec, being Quebec, insists on being the lone holdout, with their consumers demanding a stripper model with three pedals, no A/C while also refusing to speak English or sign Canada’s constitution. What gives?

The big motivator here is, of course, economics. Quebec is not as wealthy as other provinces, while taxes and fuel costs are a good deal higher. Canadians drive more modest cars than Americans, but Quebecers take that a step further, overwhelmingly opting for compact  and subcompact cars.

The second factor is also geography. Not everyone lives in Montreal or Quebec City – a decent portion of Quebec is actually further north than the southern part of Greenland, and when you’re that far north, it doesn’t really get hot enough to use air conditioning. Even in less remote locales like Saguenay (a few hours northeast of Montreal), temperatures in June can barely break 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unlike in America, where internet commenters demand a no-frills small car and then fail to follow through on their promise to buy one, people in Quebec really do buy these things – at one point, 1 in 2 Hyundai Accents in Canada were being sold in Quebec, and you can bet that a good portion of them had three pedals and a block-off plate where the climate control system should have been. Offering a Quebec special is also good for the OEMs. It lets them advertise a rock bottom starting price, while charging around $2,000 more for the next model up, which has air-conditioning and the option of an automatic transmission.

Hyundai’s approach for the Accent is interesting itself. A bare-bones Accent sedan with a manual and no A/C is $13,339, but to get an automatic gearbox and A/C in a sedan body, you have to step up to the $16,749 GL Auto trim. The hatchback offers a bit more flexibility, but just A/C alone on a manual hatchback requires a $2,100 jump from the L hatchback to the GL hatchback.

While these stripper models would fail in America due to being an undeniable marker of poverty, Quebecers embrace their stripped-out econoboxes with open arms, and the OEMs are happy to serve this small but very vocal market segment. No wonder on whether Porsche will be serving this market with a 7-speed 911 sans air-conditioning, but we can still hold out hope that the GT3 RS will return, non

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90 Comments on “Quebec’s Obsession With No Frills Cars...”


  • avatar
    niky

    Can I get a Mazda2 with no AC, crank windows and a stick? Consider me sold.

    Leave out the carpets, too… don’t want to ruin them when we weld in the rollcage.

    • 0 avatar
      zekele

      I’m in Quebec and I’ve just bought a new base-model Mazda 2 with a manual transmission (but with A/C, I’m not so cheap that I would leave that out!). No crank windows, but due to economies of scale adding them just for one base model wouldn’t necessarily make the car cheaper anyway.

      As to the Quebec exception, I’m looking out of my window as I write, and in my street I can see three Yaris hatchbacks, one Yaris sedan, two Corollas, a Mazda 3 (hatch), a Versa (hatch) and a Lancer. The only people I know who drive trucks are in the construction industry.

      So yes, car-buying is different here. Why? The article is missing a few explanations: yes, economics is one reason (stagnant low wages and high taxes), but there is also the issue of cultural isolation: Quebec is inward-looking at the best of times, and there is little exposure to the Anglo-Saxon media machines. Slightly related to this is the more bohemian attitude held in many circles, where less importance is given to displays of wealth, or where such ostentation is even frowned-upon.

      Another issue not mentioned is RUST: I don’t realistically expect my new Mazda 2 to last more than about 10 years. In Quebec we have 6 months of snow a year and the authorities use road salt in enormous quantities. The roads are poorly-maintained – I had a Toyota Echo a few years back (yes, base model manual with no options), and I replaced various front suspension elements five times in the 8 years I owned it. Quebec is a brutal environment for cars, so people don’t tend to invest large sums in them.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        zekele, I think your last paragraph says it all. Climate and road salt. Quebec also used to allow studded snow tires, which are brutal for road surfaces.

        Montreal has a distinctly cooler climate than Toronto, which means whether or not to buy a/c is a genuine issue. It also gets a LOT more snow than Toronto – a WHOLE LOT MORE – which inevitably makes for more minor dings, dents and scratches.

        Much the same situation (without the studded tires) applies in northern Ontario. From the line Sault Ste Marie-Sudbury-North Bay on north. I suspect you will see a lot of cars without a/c, and with stick shifts. Ditto New Brunswick & Newfoundland, and the rural Prairies.

        BTW, there are still a great many houses in Toronto (and across southern Ontario) that don’t have a/c of any kind. Going from a stifling house to a stifling car is not much of a change. At least you’re guaranteed to get some sort of breeze in a moving car!

      • 0 avatar
        Oren Weizman

        As a Montrealer I just realized something

        I think I have the Queen of ‘Quebec’ strippers as my daily driver, A 2003 Mazda Protege5, it has everything, Cruise Control, Electric doors, Keyless entry, Automatic, CD, Mags and Foglights but !

        NO AC OUT OF THE FACTORY !

        My wife drives a Lexus … she hates my car but I’m crazy about it ! plus no rust which for a Mazda here is almost science fiction

  • avatar
    Onus

    It wont have a block off plate. Cars don’t need a/c to have control knobs you just don’t get an a/c button.

    In the colder months the cowl air is cold enough for the defrosting. especially in newer cars where there is valve to shut off water to the heater core when the heat isn’t on.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      The reason to have A/C in colder months is because A/C dehumidifies. Many many cars (such as my Alero) are wired so that when you switch to defrost the compressor automatically kicks in.

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        I’ve never owned a car with a/c so i don’t see the need. My windows are perfectly visible in any weather.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          I actually rather dislike that I cannot disable the A/C in that vent setting. In the winter, I pull my A/C fuse, and run A/C free all winter. And yes, my defroster works fine without it. My above post is just my understanding of their reasoning for setting it up like that.

        • 0 avatar

          Interesting. The compressor went in my dad’s Accord half way through the winter and the difference in defrosting ability was so stark that he had it fixed shortly thereafter.

  • avatar

    Very interesting – I hadn’t noticed this even though I’ve been to Quebec three times.

    Unfortunately, those of us who like well-equipped cars with three pedals are still finding the automobile market to be a less welcoming place. Yes, I realize automatics can match and sometimes beat the economy of a manual (I’m not convinced this is true in the real world but it certainly is in the tests that are done) but there is nothing as engaging to drive as a good manual. I also like that I usually save money buying one, and the maintenance is less onerous and, when needed, less expensive. (The only manual transmission failure I’ve had is a second-gear synchro that failed; since it was a beater Hyundai, my “repair” was to double clutch or to not bother downshifting all the way to second. The car was perfectly driveable!)

    I’ve never owned an automatic, but there may be a day when I have to give in. I hope it’s far in the future.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Same, Jim!

      I like myself a 3 pedal car with a few options, A/C being one of them.

      Kudos to Mazda. Having a stick available in all trim options in the new Mazda6 is awesome. Now if we could only get a reasonably equipped AWD crossover with 3 pedals.

      • 0 avatar
        Wacko

        Basically the only 3 pedal AWD are the Subaru impreza, the suzuki SX4 and the jeep compass/patriot.

        They used to make the AWD CRV with a manual, my mom has a 2003 with a manual.
        The matrix does come with a AWD model, but only with an auto…

        In 2010 when i was car shopping I looked at all these options.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          Yeah its getting worse. New Forester XT, no manual!

          2.5L CX-5 AWD, no manual!

          :-(

          I know about the Patriot (Compass isnt an option :-) and I am underwhelmed by the 2.4L “World Engine.” Which is too bad, I really like the way the Patriot looks.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          I have an AWD 5 speed manual, H3T
          With All 3 lockers

      • 0 avatar
        Easton

        That’s one reason I love my 2007 Pontiac G6 coupe. I think it might be one of the last cars I will ever be able to buy that has an uplevel V6, sunroof, upgraded stereo AND a clutch pedal. I’m not going to pretend for a second it’s a Camaro, but overall it’s just been a really nice car with a unique combination of options.

      • 0 avatar
        Madroc

        At least as of 2010 when my wife got hers, you could get a reasonably well-equipped Subaru Outback with 6MT. Ours has moonroof, heated power seats and HIDs. You can’t get the H6 (which sells in minuscule volume and doesn’t make a lot of sense in that car) or Limited trim (give up leather, uprated stereo and available nav) but the 2.5 Premium with all the boxes checked except CVT is a nice little AWD family-hauler for the $24K and change it cost.

        Pretty sure you have choices in the new Mazda everyone raves over but maybe the stick is FWD-only.

    • 0 avatar
      love2drive

      I just bought a 2013 Acura TL with AWD and a 6 speed. Loving how it drives, yet still luxury. Internet rumor mill says for 2014 they’re dropping the MT though, so get one while they last. I had to hunt to find a dealer with them in stock, but got a good deal given that there’s so little demand. They softened the looks some in 2012 on the front end and some of the chrome, so now externally I’m ok with it and I like the interior a lot. But mainly, I love the pull of the 3.7 with a 6spd.

      • 0 avatar

        I really like this combo. Japanese reliability, a great engine, great AWD, and quite nice dynamics with a Honda 6-speed manual. If I could afford one it’d be near the top of my list.

  • avatar
    morbo

    Mennonites maybe?

  • avatar
    ash78

    The difference is that Quebec stripper models can have exposed undercarriage, while most of Canada and US requires some level of coverage.

    Sorry, it’s Friday. I’m not going to make “Thrifty-ass europhile wanna-be” jokes about our neighbors to the north and east.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      You can have exposed undercarriages in the rest of Canada. The difference with Quebec is their models perform a bit better and go a good distance further for your money.

  • avatar

    I was sure that when the previous generation Fusion bowed out, the replacement wouldn’t have a third pedal…and I for one am very glad it does! I still would like to be a gently used ’07 – ’09 Altima sedan with a six-speed…that is one seriously good looking car.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Yeah, the last gen Altima was MUCH better looking than the current gen. The last gen was tight and the current looks much more flabby. And a manual attached to the VQ6, if you can find one is just awesome.

  • avatar
    challenger2012

    I was one of the few who purchased manual transmissions for my cars. I have owned 4 in my life. A few years ago, I checked the economics of owning a manual transmission car vs. and automatic. The price differential was about $1,000 cheaper for a car with a manual transmission. But at 60,000 miles, I would have to pay $1,000 to have a new clutch put in my car, including a front end alignment with the down side of having someone who does not care about my car who is working on my car. Also factor in the that now I have added $1,000 to my car ownership cost while the car is worth less than the equivalent automatic car. I have paid for an automatic transmission due to the cost of replacing the clutch. From that point, my last two cars have been automatics. Furthermore, Automatics offer better fuel mileage than manuals. And we all know how fun driving a manual is in bumper to bumper traffic. I cannot justify owing a manual car anymore. I realize you have more control over the car’s performance, but it is something I can live without.

    • 0 avatar
      scponder

      If you have to replace your clutch at 60k then you are probably better off with the auto anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      bk_moto

      A couple points:

      - If you are only getting 60,000 miles out of a clutch, there is something very wrong with your technique.

      - a blanket statement that automatics offer better fuel economy than manuals is not a fair statement. It depends greatly on the technology involved in the specific automatic under discussion. Traditional torque-converter style automatic transmissions generally offer worse fuel economy than a manual – cars fitted with this type of automatic (until the last 10 years or so, this was pretty much all automatics) will show a 2-3 mpg deficit on the window sticker compared to the same car with a manual. However, newer types of automatics that have been in use more recently such as CVTs and now DCTs (which are really electronically-operated manual transmissions) can now offer mileage improvements over a manual transmission. But there are still plenty of the old school variety out there.

      Something also to consider regarding DCTs: since they are electronically-operated manual transmissions, there are actually *two* clutches that will eventually need to be replaced. They are wet clutches that run in oil like a motorcycle clutch but wet clutches wear out too just like dry clutches. I haven’t done any research however on how long these clutches typically last. I’m not sure if the data is out there as they are relatively new to the mass market with probably VW and Audi having some of the longest experience offering them for sale (DSG). Anybody?

      • 0 avatar
        bk_moto

        I should add that one of the reasons DCTs can offer superior fuel economy to a manual transmission is largely because it can be programmed to upshift early and often and get the transmission into the highest gear possible as early as possible. If a driver actually shifted a manual transmission like the DCTs shift I wonder if he/she would not achieve similar mpg.

        Of course that’s one of the reasons I dislike driving my Ford Focus company car with DCT so much – no matter what you want to do, it’s *always* in the wrong gear. I’d rather sacrifice a couple mpg than have infuriatingly long waits for throttle response while the DCT figures out what gear it needs to downshift into when I push on the gas pedal.

        • 0 avatar
          niky

          Best estimate I’ve heard for DCT clutches for non-supercars (ergo… Fords), it’s in the $1000 range for something like the Fiesta (for the clutch packs themselves, not including labor, assembly, etcetera). The higher torque wet-clutch systems are supposed to be “lifetime”, which means that you’ll have to raise hell and high water to get a Ford dealer to actually open and fix it, or take your chances with a surplus unit.

          -

          A CVT can just about match a manual on the highway. A properly driven manual, though, whups all in the city drive. Hypermiling fanatics still swear by the manual, and still get excellent results with them.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Any advantages in economy to an automatic are either ONLY in the artificial confines of the EPA test, or a significant gearing difference. See Honda FIT for that last one.

            In the real world, any economy advantages are negated by the fact that you literally cannot accelerate in the majority of automatics without triggering a downshift. My 328i is perfectly happy to accelerate in 6th gear from 30mph on a whiff of throttle – can’t do that in an automatic.

            And I agree – if you only got 60K out of a clutch, there was either something wrong with the car from the get-go, or you are doing it wrong. The LOWEST mileage I have ever gotten out of a clutch was 184K.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Pretty much. EPA tests allow autos to shift where they want, because in the old days, you didn’t have a choice. Whereas manuals must be shifted at a very precise rpm, whether or not that is the optimum rpm. This is partly to blame for the strange engine mapping of new cars, which have a big dip in torque after 2500 rpm, partly to spoof the EPA, partly to force people to ease off and shift up.

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      I guess durability wasn’t a factor? A manual transmission lasts forever, automatics regularly become white elephants well before the engine is half done.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        In either case, depends. Drive it incorrectly and there’s lots on a manual that can go wrong, gear synchros, shift forks, etcetera. Then you come to the part where you have to change clutches every 40k – 100k miles, depending on how bad a driver you are… and the part where modern engines will often have a vibration-cancelling dual-mass flywheel that needs to be replaced or rebuilt when you change out the clutch, too…

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        Don’t ask me how, but I managed to break the cables in my stick. Suddenly, it was third gear or clutch engadged, nothing else. Still, probably cheaper to repair than an auto.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        “A manual transmission lasts forever”

        LOLZ, that’s a good one.

        I’ve seen personally manual transmissions that needed repair. Forks, bearings, synchros, gears, shafts… both by normal wear and tear and also driver abuse.

        • 0 avatar
          slow kills

          And when repaired, it’s as good as new with another decade or more of life in it. Ever hear of a total lemon manual transmission that has eternal problems like many, many automatic transmissions develop?

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            I’ve driven quite a few manual boxes that were garbage. Weak third gear synchros due to the way transverse gearboxes are packaged, soft forks, clutch issues, pop-out. My car goes through clutches like crazy. Even guys who drive them gentle can’t make them last more the 30,000 miles in traffic. Only time I ever got good clutch life out of it was with a heavy duty aftermarket part built for three times the torque.

            I’ve even driven some boxes with pop-out issues with basically zero miles on the clock, being the first person to actually drive them at more than a pootle, in my work as a test driver.

            There are good manuals and there are bad manuals, just as there are good automatics and there are bad automatics. I’ve had a lot of trouble with bad automatics, but I’ve seen some go the distance.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I’ve owned two cars in my life, both with manuals. The first was a ’92 Jetta which I bought used at 18 and drove how an 18-year-old drives in the suburbs of a big city. As far as I know, it was on the original clutch at 160k miles; it certainly didn’t get changed in the 55k miles I owned the car. The second is my current Miata which sees some light track use, lives downtown in a big city, and is going strong at 75k.

      If you need to budget a clutch replacement at 60k, something is wrong, or you’re looking for excuses to buy the automatic.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    From my own experience in this area and the Quebec market, it’s plain and simple, they’re cheap. Mostly because of the economic reasons already mentioned, Quebecois have less economic opportunity and what they do find, they take home less.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    “the OEMs are happy to serve this small but very vocal market segment.”

    This is what I find to be surprising; I wouldn’t think the Quebec market would be large enough for OEM’s to show any interest, much less ability to make a profit, on what must be, comparably, infinitesimal volumes.

    • 0 avatar
      rollingScienceProject

      They do it for the same reason they do special models dfor south America: this is the whole market for the region.

      In Quebec, a camry or altima is a BIG car. You pretty much never see anything bigger. A Mazda3 is a cool family car, rtc.

      And since cars fall apart from rust after 10 years, the disincentive for expensive is quite important.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “And since cars fall apart from rust after 10 years, the disincentive for expensive is quite important.”

        This is an excellent point it may explain the whole attraction to “cheap”.

  • avatar
    Wacko

    The fact that we pay the highest taxes in north america help this too. The fact that we must have winter tires and summer tires also help this point, when you have to factor the cost of 2 sets of tires. The price of gas is also a major factor.
    I live in northern quebec(ABITIBI), and in summer yes it does get hot. I use the A/C all summer long.

    I drive a manual by choice, the only problem for me is finding a manual car with AWD. My everyday car is my 2010 SX4 awd with a 6 speed manual. Loads of fun for the winter months.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I never understood this logic. Two sets of tires means they wear out (roughly, because winter tires do wear a little quicker) in twice as much time. Unless you were planning on going through no more than one set of tires in the total ownership of your car, the big difference in cost is having to swap tires out every season or, if you’re smart, about $200 for a second set of wheels to mount the winter tires onto. $200 over the lifetime of a car is only significant if you’re already having trouble paying for 40s of Labatt Bleue.

      We definitely have economic problems in Quebec, but I find that we become outraged over very insignificant things – the cost of winter tires and rising university tuition of a few hundred dollars for the first time in over a decade, being the two major ones.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        It’s the consequential costs and hassle that would bother me the most. Most people pay to have them removed and installed. If you have tire pressure monitor sensors, they have to be re-trained, you have to find somewhere to store an extra set of wheels/tires plus the time to deal with all that.

        Snow tires are definitely a benefit in the snow, but most people who don’t venture off the beaten path would do just fine with a good set of all seasons. The part that irks me about the Quebec law is they made it mandatory.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          Its not just about snow, danio. I’ve lived in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Minneapolis, and winter tires are just the right tool for the job, on or off the beaten path. All seasons just lose compliance in the cold weather, snow or not, city or highway. For example, Michelin pilot mxm4, a common OEM tire which is great in the dry and wet, became downright scary, due to how hard and unyielding they became in freezing temperatures. (This was on an 04 Mazda 6).

          My personal belief is that anyone who gives a whit about their own safety or the safety of other road uses owes it to themselves to properly equip their vehicle. Its simply part of the cost of owning and upkeeping a vehicle in these parts, and if you look at it like that, and budget and plan accordingly, its no longer a hardship and the benefits far outweigh any cost, in my opinion.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know about Quebek, but two sets of tires is a legal requirement in places like Moscow, Russia. It’s a part of government policy to drive up the cost of ownership, under a thin veneer of safety hogwash.

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    For many years, the French car manufacturers such as Peugeot and Renault were important players in the Quebec car market. I’m guessing they would have sold primarily Euro-spec models, which would have been overwhelmingly manual and without A/C, especially in smaller cars. With a cultural preference for manuals, and a limited need for air conditioning, it doesn’t surprise me that these trends have continued.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    I’d wager they have less traffic – especially in the far north as well. Manuals are more fun with less traffic. That’s the real problem in the US. As population density here rises – less people want to drive manuals. Americans drive the most (more then Europe, way more then Japan) miles per day – and do that through traffic..

    Compared to the rest of the world its all suburban sprawl here..

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    We took a short vacation to Montreal city two years ago. I didn’t notice the prevalence of manual transmissions by the presence of thicker calf muscles on the local’s left legs I did notice a lot of small cars, but I thoght that this was driven by narrow streets and lack of street parking around the old city. We parked in the hotel garage and walked everywhere or took the bus. On the way in, we got caught in the evening rush hour and inched along for kilometers. Since my dailiy driver is a manual, I can attest to how tiresome driving a manual in stop and go traffic is.
    Even though I am one of those hold outs for manual trannys, I am probably going to commit the ultimate car sin of replacing the manual with a CVT when I replace the current DD in 2014. Hats off to the urban Montreallers who drive a manual in that city.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Quebec is a unique market. They love their wagons and hatchbacks, and also Mazda 5s.

    I discovered recently that the Jetta Trendline in Canada also comes without A/C, which is why it sells for $14990. In the U.S., the Jetta S comes with A/C and starts at $16720.

    Perhaps the Quebec market also has stripper cars so people can afford to buy that set of snow tires they need by law.

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    That’s true that there are more manual transmissions here.

    I bought a Dodge Neon in 2005 with 3 pedals and no A/C. Of course it is hot in Montreal in July-August, but I saved money (as a student then it made a difference)

    I kept the car for 8 years, and changed it this year for a Kia Optima 2013, with manual transmission! (A/C is standard, thanks god)

    I love manual transmissions, and don’t see the point of paying $2,000 for an dull automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to buy the ACR (air conditioning removed) Neon (the salesman was pushing it, likely because I wanted a stick and how else do you get rid of them). The only saving grace would be that the engine killing 4+k highway rpms would burn up the defective head gasket while under warranty (I had to cough up for my breeze). From the sound of it (AC removal) they didn’t want too many customers getting that ACR suspension.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    It’s true. Many Quebecois refuse to acknowledge it, but Montreal in particular has been in a steady economic decline for decades. Due to the threat of splitting off from Canada despite absolutely no plan of how that’s to be done, and the constant addition of anti-English-speaking laws that even the supreme court has judged as unconstitutional, businesses have been pulling out of the province and towards Toronto for a long time now, leaving only a shadow of the city that hosted the World’s Fair in ’67 and the Olympics in ’76. Even Formula 1 threatened to pull out of the city, because the race track on Ile Notre Dame wasn’t being maintained. On top of that, we face considerable political corruption, seeing very little return on the high rates of taxes we pay, particularly in our road system, who saw collapses of overpasses and tunnels in the past years which have killed about a dozen people.

    My ’99 Miata is a rare form of poverty-spec for that car: no A/C, cruise control, power windows, mirrors, or doors, and it most likely left the factory with steel 14″ wheels, although judging by the presence of anti-theft number etching on the aftermarket wheels that match what’s on the rest of the car, it didn’t stay that way for long.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      JuniperBug, thanks for summing it up so eloquently. I wanted to say something but didn’t want to come across as a hater. Quebec has thousands of square kilometers of natural resources, even more natural beauty, amazing historic cities, but is being run into the ground for the reasons you mentioned. Language laws, fanatical “nationalism” and political corruption being the key points. Quebec has alot of natural advantages that could be exploited (just as much as Alberta) but is so poorly run.

      • 0 avatar
        nrcote

        Dave, could you please define fanatical “nationalism”?

        In order to do so, please feel free to use the Québec flag burning in Sault Ste Marie. You can also tell us about The Alliance For the Preservation of English in Canada. Closer to me, in Russell Township (just east of Ottawa), about 49% French and 49% English, when the former Council adopted regulations about new bilingual signs for businesses (i.e. any ***new*** sign had to be in English AND in French), they were called Nazis and the Township had to spend more than $250,000 to defend itself against an out-of-town notorious anti-French crusader. Finally, please explain Don Cherry.

        Cheers!

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          I hate Don Cherry.

          I’m not trying to paint a broad brush, or start an internet argument, or flame an entire province, so please don’t misunderstand. I don’t endorse Quebec flag burning anywhere, and I can’t speak for those people. I don’t support The Alliance For the Preservation of English in Canada. Fanatics will be fanatics, where ever they are. Haters will hate. I don’t hate Quebec or its residents. My argument is that the language laws, and to a great extent, a lot of the governments decisions hold Quebec back economically. My “fanatical nationalism” stemmed from the name of the “Quebec National Assembly” as the provincial government. It speaks to mentality. I apologize in advance for using Wikipedia, but this is a bit about the current premier of Quebec’s policy. “As Premier, she has laid out an agenda designed to promote “sovereigntist governance” in relations with the rest of Canada, to return Quebec to balanced budgets through higher taxes and debt reduction, to increase the use of French in public services, and to address resource development in Northern Quebec. Many aspects of these policies, such as restrictions on the use of English and on access to higher Education in English at a time when the use of French in commerce, education and the workforce is increasing in Quebec[62][not in citation given], are widely viewed as an affront to immigrants and to citizens whose mother tongue is not French.[63][64][not in citation given] Such measures have also been questioned by native speakers of French, who recognize the benefits of a knowledge of other languages, including English, and the fact that the knowledge of other languages will not cause them to abandon French as their primary language.[disputed – discuss]” This type of stuff is not helpful to an economy. As I mentioned, I don’t hold this against the average Quebec resident. It doesn’t take a majority vote to bring in someone with those views. Balanced budgets and looking to natural resources are good, but let’s be honest, everywhere else in North America we are bringing in immigrants who can’t speak a word of (insert prevalent local language) but they are hard workers and drive the economy.

          Another example, I am a registered Professional Engineer, I speak enough French to survive if dropped suddenly into France, but I am definitely not conversational (yet), and I can’t get registered in Quebec because I am not bilingual enough. So, my French may not be top notch, but I can still design a bridge, regardless of being raised in an English speaking household. A colleague of mine was educated in Quebec and refuses to even support AISQ (the Quebec engineering body) anymore, because he believes this policy is detrimental to Quebec. I work with a lot of immigrant professionals, whose local language skills aren’t really great, but they are competent and great to work with and I am happy they are here.

          I hope this all makes sense. Not trying to hate.

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            As a native Montrealer, I see the same things that davefromcalgary sees. No matter which language you speak, being a market of 8 million people who speak one language, and actively suppressing your people from speaking the language that the other 300 million people around you do, is bound to lead to economic hardship.

            Where it would be easy and beneficial to encourage its residents to be bilingual, Quebec’s policies are actively trying to discourage people from learning – and speaking – English. Whether the francophone Quebecois realize it or not (and many do; you’ll be surprised to find that even some of the hard-line separatist politicians have sent their own children to private English schools), their inability to learn English in schools is holding them captive from pursuing opportunities elsewhere in Canada and the US, and insulates them from learning what is going on in the rest of the world, because let’s face it: if you don’t speak English, it’s going to be considerably harder to interact with people and news sources from other countries. I’m pretty sure that’s the sort of “nationalistic” nonsense that davefromcalgary was citing as being detrimental to the province.

            Regarding the AISQ: a friend of mine immigrated to Quebec from Switzerland, where he’d earned an electrical engineering degree at the ETH, one of the most prestigious technical schools in the world, counting the most graduates anywhere who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prizes, including Einstein. The guy is fluent in at least three languages, including French, and the AISQ’s response to him wanting to join the order: Sorry, you need to have a Masters degree from that school in order to be considered equivalent to a Bachelors from Quebec.

    • 0 avatar
      nrcote

      > businesses have been pulling out of the province
      > and towards Toronto for a long time now,

      What’s left to explain is why businessess have been pulling out of Toronto (Ontario) to relocate to Calgary (Alberta).

      Yes, that’s a rhetorical question. Hint: the answer has nothing to do with language. More with that stuff your Miata needs to run, even though you currently get it from somewhere else, which may change if that pipeline gets reversed.

  • avatar
    Nutella

    One reason could also be the abundance of snow in Quebec. When I first visited Quebec as a student from Europe, most buses were also manual for better snow traction I was told by the drivers. Being from a hilly often snowed in European country,I much prefer driving manual in the snow. Better control, and no need for AWD/4WD most of the time, especially if you drive a lighter car with narrow tires.
    Mind you, living in LA now, I still like manual better. I get more cramps by constantly having to twist my right foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal.Lack of engine braking in automatic make the stop and go traffic even worse in my opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      > I get more cramps by constantly having to twist my right foot from the
      > accelerator to the brake pedal.Lack of engine braking in automatic make
      > the stop and go traffic even worse in my opinion.

      I completely agree with this. Personally, I would not be able to drive an automatic in traffic. I tried for two months, switched to manual and never looked back. I don’t know how people do it. My right leg was ready to fall off.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    I do business travel to Montreal at least 4 times a year. One of the most beautiful cities in North America.
    Another explanation for the ‘Quebec Special’ is simply a different set of priorities in life that most Quebecois ahere to. Cars (along with mini-mansions and large quantities of fatening foods) are not used as a means of enjoying life as much as they are elsewhere. Most Quebecois (that I know) go on at least 2 decent vacations a year and travel abroad far more than the average American.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Considering that supposedly only 33% of Americans have passports, that is not hard to accomplish! And that number is the result of a large increase due to having to have one to go to Canada and Mexico now.

  • avatar

    I don’t see why anyone would need AC in Quebec. The southernmost point in Quebec is north of Vermont and New Hampshire, and north of the entire Maine coast. Bringing up deserts in British Columbia (are there really such? I doubt it) is irrelevant because BC is more than 2000 miles away from Quebec, and southern Ontario is well south of Quebec.

    It is interesting that everyone drives manuals. It may be in some small part French influence.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Do you have any idea how humid many parts of Canada get in the summer? My hometown Winnipeg is the coldest winter city with a population greater than 600,000 in the world. It also has 35 degree C summers with the “Humidex” rating making it feel into the 40′s. Southern Ontario and Quebec are similar due to the Great Lakes. A/C is very much useful and to many, not an option.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Assuming that southern Quebec’s climate is about the same as Vermont’s, New Hampshire’s or upstate New York’s – which based on my visits there I think is correct – do we see the same low take rate of air conditioning in those states as we do in Quebec? If not, then we can still ask why A/C should be deemed unnecessary in Quebec and not in those states. In Montreal we definitely see our share of days into the high 70s and into the 80s, before factoring in humidity or the effects of the sun on a vast expanse of glass. Northern Quebec certainly needs it less than, say, Montreal, but then Montreal’s metro area accounts for half the Quebec population, and Quebec City ain’t exactly above the permafrost line, either.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I can tell you that here in Maine, the take rate for A/C was very low until it became standard on most cars. My Grandparents did not buy their first car with A/C until 1982, and they are quite wealthy! I’ve owned a number of cars without A/C, it really isn’t a major issue here. I prefer to have it, of course.

        And similar to our cousins to the North (and a sizable minority in Maine is native French speaking), people here still buy manuals, myself included. Though I don’t see many new base model cars – cheaper to just buy a used nicer one.

    • 0 avatar
      racer193

      Yes there really is a desert in B.C. Google Osoyoos B.C and you will see it is very desert, dry,hot with little rain fall. Being from eastern Canada but having lived in the Oakanagon valley my arthritic knees miss it badly.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Not wanting to get even a toenail in the francophone – anglophone controversy in Canada, but a couple of comments, as a Washington DC native.

    1. I grew up here without air conditioning in cars. My father’s first a/c equipped car was a Volvo he bought new in 1977, long after I had left home, gotten married, etc. My first car was a Karmann Ghia, which I reluctantly sold when I went to work in Houston. A/C is essential for survival there. Consequently, I have a hard time seeing a/c as a necessity in Quebec. Nice to have on a few hot days in July and August, probably, but a necessity, no. Toronto, I sure would present a closer case . . . but not Quebec City much less the northern parts of the province.

    2. I grew up driving my parents’ manual tranny cars and owned them exclusively myself until we bought a Toyota Previa in 1992, which came only with an automatic. Except for clutch replacement, manuals are extremely durable; and a clutch should be good for 100K miles. Sure there are exceptions. My Taurus SHO clutch throw-out bearing failed at 40K miles — a known weakness in that drivetrain. And, among the many odd things that failed in my 1980 Audi 5000 diesel was the slave cylinder on my hydraulically operated clutch, at something like 20K miles. Driving a manual tranny in traffic is, in some ways, easier (you can slow down without having to use the brakes) and in someways harder. The only real problem with driving a manual tranny is that it’s an acquired skill; you have to work a little bit at it. For decades, people have managed to do so quite handily.

    I think most of the fuel economy advantages of automatics over manuals related to one or more of three things: (1) a different final drive ratio for the manual (see, the Mustang V-6) that may be more biased for performance in top gear, (2) the use of more gears than are available in the manual (e.g. 8), and (3) programming of the automatic tranny to shift up very aggressively in a way that is tolerable with a torque converter between the engine and transmission but would not be tolerable in a manual. And, of course, there are those automatic transmissions, like DCT’s and CVT’s which do not use a power-wasting torque converter at all.

    3. Even though I live in DC, not generally considered the snowbelt, I have a spare set of wheels with true snow tires mounted on them for my Honda Pilot, which handles surprisingly badly in the snow (braking especially). With the car having something over 80K miles, the original set of both tires about needs replacing, although the snows have some life left in them. Obviously, if had used the original all-seasons exclusively, they would have needed replacing years ago. Other than the initial cost of a spare set of wheels, I don’t see any economic downside to doing this, assuming you have somewhere to store the other set of wheels/tires, as I do. (In my basement.)

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      Attempting to use geographical location references as a basis for whether or not it gets ridiculously hot and humid in Montreal’s summer is a mug’s game.

      Way, way back in 1967 at Expo 67, as we stood dissolving in sweat lined up to get into the US pavilion, Americans groused that Canada was supposed to be cold. Yup, 60 miles north of the US, the climate was supposed somehow to be magically different.

      Ottawa is even worse than Montreal in summer. Frankly, Boston has a much nicer climate than either in summer from the heat and humidity point of view. Boston is on the ocean, Montreal’s climate is more continental.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      DC Bruce – - –

      You said: “I think most of the fuel economy advantages of automatics over manuals related to one or more of three things: (1) a different final drive ratio for the manual (see, the Mustang V-6) that may be more biased for performance in top gear, (2) the use of more gears than are available in the manual (e.g. 8), and (3) programming of the automatic tranny to shift up very aggressively in a way that is tolerable with a torque converter between the engine and transmission but would not be tolerable in a manual.”

      I agree. You hit it right on the head. But there may be one more “cheat-y” way in which automatics come out better in EPA testing: (4) different gear ratios within the transmission, not just the final gear ratio or number of gears.

      I’ve always felt that if an “All-Else Equal**” comparison were done between a manual and a torque-converter automatic (not a PDK-type automated dual-clutch transmission), then there is no way that any conventional automatic would get better gas mileage, even with a locking torque converter for higher gears. (This assumes the tester really knows properly how to drive a manual.)

      ** “All-Else-Equal” here means – - -
      a) Same final gear ratio and differential type;
      b) Same number of transmission gears;
      c) Same gear ratios within the transmission;
      d) Same required shift points (specified as RPM @ Speed for each gear)
      e) Same REAL-WORLD road course with hills, valleys, highways, city stop-and-go, and idling at lights.

      ————————-

  • avatar
    deanst

    Never understood the argument against manuals in slow traffic – when you’re stopped you don’t even have to have your foot on any pedal! But I guess I may be biased because I bike and row more than I drive, so the minor effort to depress a clutch pales in comparison to the effort to bike or row. (On an unrelated note, I think everyone should be forced to drive an underpowered, manual car for a year or two – I suspect people would learn to be much better drivers if forced to drive under those conditions!)

    Also, the appeal of A/C is a mystery to me. I never use my A/C if I’m alone in the car (I live in Toronto). I open my sunroof and put down the windows and enjoy the fresh air – what’s the appeal of being in a hermetically sealed cocoon unless its 110 or you’re old or infirm?

    • 0 avatar
      walleyeman57

      One man’s hermetically sealed cocoon is another man’s protection from the unwashed, smoke belching, radio blaring, sweat inducing, masses.

      I think my interior stays cleaner too.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Hey deanst! I drive a manual and also bike to work often. I love having my windows and sunroof open when traffic is moving, but, to me, A/C is great though when you’re stuck inching along sun drenched tarmac, as so often happens during rush hour in any major city.

      I think its situational. I don’t use my A/C all the time, but it is nice to have.

      As an anecdote, my dad, living in Winnipeg, used to have a 15 minute all highway commute. The A/C in his 97 Olds has long since ran empty and he never bothered to recharge it, and never missed it. His commute recently changed to a city crawling half hour drag, and he has since mentioned that he would love the option of cranking the A/C on those days when the humidity is way up and traffic isn’t moving, or stuck at a train (which is pretty much always in Winnipeg).

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I live in Toronto as well, and I really wish my half-Quebec special (’04 Accent, no A/C, but sadly slushbox equipped) had air. I suppose if the damn thing had adequate ventilation, it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s the 3-door, and all the hot air seems to pool in the back seat. I mean, I’m not in danger of dying, but even with the mid-20s we’ve been having lately, it’s not entirely comfortable.

      I’m with you on manuals in traffic being great though – more than anything, I miss engine braking.

  • avatar
    redav

    “Quebecers are the last holdout of manual adoration in North America”

    I think you phrase this incorrectly. They don’t “adore” manuals or “embrace” stripper cars. They are just cheap bastards. I would venture a guess that if MTs cost more than ATs, everyone up there would buy the AT.

    Also, considering that something like 80% of Canada’s population lives within a half-hour of the US, I don’t think people living in the northern parts of any province affect sales statistics that much.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    So, are we concluding that Quebec is the Scotland of the Northern Americas?

  • avatar
    MK

    I heard “Canada”, “stripper” and “full contact lap dance” and got lost in reverie….sorry what was this all about ?

  • avatar
    Joss

    With the exception of Mon-re-all Quebec is a backwater. Corrupt all over.

  • avatar
    stirner

    Quebec simply isn’t as car obsessed as the rest of North America. Different priorities for different folks.

  • avatar
    dguy77

    saying that its the economics is dumb… people simply don’t want to spend that much on cars. people that choose a manual car just want something cheaper and most people do upgrade to a/c. saying that people don’t take a/c because its cold in the summer is stupid.

  • avatar

    Quebec’s forecast is 58F tomorrow. I don’t see it even touching 80F for next 10 days. Hmmm…

  • avatar
    kjb911

    gotta hand it to ford for having a choice for a their pedal in the fiesta, focus, fusion and mustang…not to mention adding a stick to the titanium trim of the focus allowing it across the board with all the bells and whistles while making the ST manual only…interesting though because I have seen a few STs being bought around here and the local dealership has said they cant keep them on the lot…perhaps they will be the savior to the manual crowd

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    And even cars WITH standard A/C are different for you folks in “The Great White North”: Honda made dual-zone automatic climate-control standard on all the 2013 Accords in the States, but made a manual A/C standard for the lowest-grade Canadian models. Just seems silly to do that, in terms of “economies of scale.”


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