Editorial: You're The Reason Auto Makers Don't Offer Manual Transmissions
One of the essential questions that many automotive writers fail to examine is “what is the nature of an automaker”? All too often, they lose sight of the fact that OEMs are in the business of selling cars, not manufacturing widgets for people who like cars.
This kind of mindset is what leads to the exchange outlined in Automobile Magazine, where one writer discusses the lack of a manual transmission in the 2016 Audi R8.
“You have to look at lap times,” he said at the 2015 Geneva auto show, adding that the take rate for manual transmission-equipped Audi R8s, at least in Europe, was almost nil. When pressed on the issue, Hollerweger remained firm. There is simply is no way for a stick-shift to match the performance of the R8’s dual-clutch transmission and few buyers wanted one, so Hollerweger believes there’s no point in offering a manual on the new car.
Of course, we’d beg to differ and we were a bit taken aback by his assertion that a manual-equipped car is not the more engaging experience for the driver.”
Emphasis added by yours truly. But that assertion alone highlights what is either a total lack of understanding regarding the auto industry, or willful blindness. The R8 is a halo car for Audi, and you can bet that they spent lots of time and money doing market research, analyzing sales data and talking to current and prospective customers about what they want in a car.
A manual is not something they want. It is what you want, and what I want, but the people signing the $200,000 checks have little to no interest in the purity and tactile supremacy of a clutch pedal and a gated manual shifter. Therefore, Audi has decided not to offer one, sparing them tens of millions in costs, regulatory headaches, fewer combinations that complicate the assembly process and three-pedal versions that sit on dealer lots collecting dust. It’s not a difficult decision to understand, but our ego is designed to protect us from thinking that we are somehow less important to Audi than the (very wealthy) customers who are supporting the brand by actually purchasing their products.
And yet, this writer begs to differ. On what grounds? Because it’s cool? Because it’s a shame to see the manual die out? Because you think they should. Sorry, but in the world of ROI and P&L statements (which make a car company stay in business), those reasons are less than worthless. If you don’t live and die by that line of thinking, then you’re Lotus, barely existing despite doing everything right in the eyes of the enthusiast.
The entitlement that comes with thinking that a particular car or variant thereof should simply exist for the sake of it is something I can’t wrap my head around. Whether a car that you’ll never ever buy has two pedals or three, a stick shift or paddles has literally zero impact on your daily life. There’s a good chance that you will never even see a 2016 Audi R8 on the road, depending on what part of the country you live in. And yet every time a new car is released without a manual, we have people rending their garments over this matter.
There is literally only one way to ensure the continued existence of the manual transmission. You have to buy new cars with manual transmissions. Car companies, like people, respond to incentives. Increased sales of manual transmissions in new vehicles (not used) is an incentive for them to offer more. Whining about their demise is not. We are not entitled to anything in this world, let alone an unpopular, costly (for the car maker) option that by all rights should have disappeared long ago.
So why not reward the people who are still doing God’s work and offering you three pedals and a real stick shift (and I really do mean that, because all of the product planners I know do their best to make the case to management for offering a manual, even if it means sticking their neck out)? Bark did. Jack did. I did. Do your part. Vote with your wallet. Here’s a list of cars that offer one, and there is still a manual option to fit every conceivable need. If everyone that complained about a lack of manuals actually bought a new car with a manual, we’d be like Europe. If you have no intention of buying a new car with a manual transmission, then you have lost your right to complain.
More by Derek Kreindler
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