Should we stop making manual cars?
You don't still use a Nokia brick, so why are we still making manuals.
“Would you like a manual or an automatic?” asked the lady at Enterprise. And as I was heading northbound to the far tip of Scotland, I responded that I would like an automatic – giving me a little bit of leeway to focus on where I was going.
“Ok, that will be an extra £60 for the automatic.” I handed over my bank card and thought nothing of it until I was on the long winding road to the Highlands. Why are automatics always so much more expensive to buy or hire? I assume it is because manual cars have been around longer, so autos are just by default a bit more pricey. But then if you look at America, where over 95% drive automatics, that cannot be the reason.
Then I thought, it must be because of what the automatic offers: an easier and more relaxing experience for drivers. But then, why would the car rental company want to push people to manual cars they likely weren’t used to. And, surely with a manual, you’re actually getting more ‘car’ in the traditional sense, so why are they so much more?
Well, according to MoneySuperMarket, automatics tend to be more expensive because the parts are spenny and are a little bit complex. Where you can fix a manual with a wrench and two mugs of tea, automatics will need a Harley Street doctor when it’s poorly.
There’s a bigger question to ask here, though, and that’s why as a planet are we still making manual cars anyway?
We know for a fact that automatic cars are easier to drive, making them more accessible to a wider and diverse audience. Automatics are also arguably safer, as drivers have one fewer thing for the brain to focus on. Automatics are a lot more fuel-efficient than manuals, which is good for polar bears. And, in thirty years when all the oil is gone, we’ll be driving electrics anyway: which are all automatic.
I raised this with a friend recently and the reply I got back was ‘but a manual is proper driving isn’t it’. But that surely can’t be why we would keep producing manual cars.
When automation reached manufacturing, we didn’t all cry out ‘oh no, this isn’t how goods should be made, we should have women doing it in a bleak factory, and children should be munched by the machine, daily’.
And when Steve Jobs revolutionised the smartphone, we all shifted a gear, we did not long for the days of a Motorola brick and a half-metre antenna. So, why when we made huge progress developing the car have we kept its predecessor around.
The only reason I can think of is the price and it being cheaper to build a manual car. Which roughly translated means, rather than push forward the automatic car into new reaches, perhaps making them cheaper to make and easier to fix, manufacturers have dithered. But surely at some point they will have to call time on the manual. Why not now?