Category Archive:

Manual Transmission RIP – Let ’em Die

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We keep watching the hand wringing of automotive enthusiasts (of which we are a member) about the manual transmission fading from the American vehicle fleet.  In fact, in 2010 our friends at Car and Driver created a Facebook page entitled “Save the Manuals” moaning about the “paucity” of manual transmissions offered in new vehicles.  The latest issue of Car and Driver continues to advertise the site.  At a recent new model introduction, a wizened old auto journalist railed on about how the car maker was killing the manual transmission.  They were not offering one on the higher priced models of the car.  Well, as experienced as he may be, he is out of touch.

Over the years, we have been proponents of automatics especially since they have become so efficient.  Based on AutoPacific research we have the data.  Here are the tidbits from the latest year’s survey (the data have changed only slightly year over year):Manual Transmission Shifter

81% of New Vehicle Acquirers Can Drive a Vehicle With a Manual Transmission  Frankly, we thought this number would be much smaller.  For the sake of their ego maybe these respondents claim they can drive a manual when they actually cannot or do so very poorly.  About 89% of men and 68% of women claim they can drive a vehicle with a manual transmission.  By age group, 52% of respondents in their 20s and 71% of those in their 30s say they can drive a vehicle with a manual transmission.  Over 40 years of age, over 85% say they can drive a manual.  We are surprised that so many in their 20s and 30s claim they can drive a manual.

94% Want an Automatic in Their Next Vehicle  81% of the respondents say they want an automatic transmission in their next vehicle.  About 14% say they want an automatic with paddle shifters.  Only 5% want a manual transmission.Automatic Transmission Shifter

Highest Preference for Manual Transmissions are in Sports and Compact Cars  About 20% of sporty car (Camaro/Mustang) owners want a manual in their next vehicle.  About 13% of sports car owners (Porsche 911, Corvette) want a manual transmission.  About 11% of compact car owners want a manual transmission.  The sports and sporty car owners want a manual because they perceive the manual gives them a more sporty driving experience and better control over the car.  Compact car owners perceive that a manual will give them better fuel economy and also a lower price.  We might have thought pickup truck owners would want a manual transmission but this is not the case.  Only 5% of pickup owners want a manual transmission in their next vehicle.

Manuals to Fade Away  In many press events AutoPacific attends, members of the automotive press continue to argue for more manual transmissions to be added to newly introduced vehicles.  This is contrary to what the people who actually buy cars want.  While there will be some bitching and moaning from the media, automakers should save their resources and concentrate on making outstanding automatics and dropping manuals in the future.Paddle Shifter

Sidenote on Paddle Shifters  Manufacturers have been adding paddle shifters to automatics to give a sportier ambiance.  In AutoPacific research over the years, we have found that drivers might use this feature for the first couple of weeks they have their vehicle.  Then they never use paddle shifters again.  While implementing paddle shifters is now an inexpensive proposition, it still might not be worth the trip.


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Exhaust Note #37: Happy Thanksgiving

What are We Thankful for This Year?
From my chair in Detroit, things are bleak whether GM, Ford, or Chrysler get any loan money or not. I’ve returned from last week’s Los Angeles Auto Show, where grilling of the Detroit Three leaders by Congress was more discussed than the product on the ground in front of us, or so it seemed. Lots of opinions have been shared, some informed and some not. There are several elements of the debate that seem to be overlooked (sales decline a minimum of 2.5 MILLION units this year is not affecting only the Detroit makers, next year is going to be worse, business decisions that look unwise in the rearview have been severely compounded by a credit freeze and housing market crash, elements not in control of any automaker.), but that’s all I’m going to say about that today.

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Instead, I want to think about good things that have happened this year. So, follow the jump to see what myself and my colleagues are grateful for having the opportunity to experience this year!

Posted in: Exhaust Note

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Exhaust Notes #36: The Auto Show Season Starts Amid Scenes of Doom

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So the word about the auto industry just keeps getting worse. With Congress mulling over the fate of the proposed aid package to the domestic automakers, we are also at the start of the 2009 auto show season. It’s going to be an interesting series of auto shows over the next few months, that’s for sure.

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Media days for the 2009 LA Auto Show start this Wednesday, and it’s already going to be a somewhat pared down show in terms of new introductions, at least from the Domestic automakers. GM and Chrysler have already announced that they’re postponing LA Auto Show launches until January for Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. Still, look forward to a slew of new launches from the various import makes…and their spins on how they will stay relevant in these depressed times.
Look for our coverage starting this Wednesday. Till then, happy motoring!

Posted in: Exhaust Note

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Exhaust Notes #35: AutoPacific Sales Forecast Predicts Continued Grim Times Ahead

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AutoPacific, VehicleVoice’s parent company, just released its latest sales forecast numbers for the current year and beyond. We all know by now just how bad this year’s sales have been so far. It’s so bad, in fact, that the sales slump we saw earlier this year due to skyrocketing fuel prices almost seems like a happy memory compared to the much more dire and long term problems we are now facing. Indeed, it looks like the industry’s in for a long, hard road ahead.

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It’s gonna take some time to clean up this mess!


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Exhaust Note #34: Audi Calls for Lowering Diesel Tax

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A Sensible Recommendation? Yes, In Fact
At the close of the Audi Mileage Marathon we talked about last week, Audi of America’s Executive Vice President Johan de Nysschen took a moment between results announcements and meet-and-greets with a few Hollywood celebrities to make a plea to the political structure. Mr. de Nysschen called for a lowering of diesel tax. Good, lowering taxes I like, though for a racing fan like myself, I was more impressed with Audi American Le Mans Series and Le Mans drivers Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish, and Dindo Capello than Mario Lopez or Brooke Burke. But that’s just me, and I digress.

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de Nysschen with Burke and Lopez

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Kristensen, McNish, and Capello

Posted in: Audi, Exhaust Note

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Exhaust Note #33: Audi Continues U.S. Diesel Education Program

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I just finished the fourth leg of Audi’s Mileage Marathon, a coast-to-coast demonstration and competition drive for the best fuel economy from a range of Audi TDI clean diesels. The drive started in New York City on October 6, ending in Santa Monica on October 19. I joined the crew in Las Vegas, which included driving through Monterey, California, and the chance to see the Audi R10 TDI cars take 1-2 in the final American Le Mans Series race of the year at Laguna Seca, their ninth consecutive victory.

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A diesel winner. A nearly silent, dominating race car.

The undertaking allowed attending Audi engineers, designers, and product planners to take a deep dive into the extremes of American driving conditions, from a crowded New York City street through the Rocky Mountains, Red Rocks at Sedona, Death Valley to Mammoth Lakes (from altitude of minus 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin in the Valley to 11,000 feet in Mammoth Lakes), and finally down Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Monica.
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The cross-country Audi Mileage Marathon fleet

This convoy of 23 silver Audi Q7s, Q5s, A3s, and A4s, dressed in nearly as many stickers as the R10 racing car, could not be missed. U.S. and international journalists and Audi engineers, designers, and executives got to see people over the country, talk to them about the car and the benefits of diesel, as well as gain firsthand knowledge of U.S. reactions. When the 3.0L TDI Q7 becomes available in the States next year, Audi will begin to see the results of the overall diesel communication strategy and education outreaches.
This was an astounding event in ambition, scope, and execution, and next week I’ll be telling my driving story. Today, we’re going to talk a little about diesel acceptance and Audi’s positioning.

Posted in: Audi, Exhaust Note

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Exhaust Notes #32: More Detroit Merger Talk

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Are we nearing the end of Chrysler? Or the beginning of a new blended family? Or just another day at the rumor mill?
Late on Friday, the first stories began appearing about GM and Chrysler in possible merger talks. And at least in Detroit, dominated the weekend news cycle. GM’s stock went up this morning, but given that the Dow was up 5.6% and GM went up only about 3%, the stock bump might have happened without merger talk. GM closed on Friday at $4.89, a number some say is actually less than the company would be worth in capital assets alone.

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All of this merger talk, whether these deals are realistic or not, does nothing good for public perception. The economy is weak, last week’s events on the stock market don’t reassure anyone, and talking about GM and Chrysler perhaps needing to merge to survive only further erodes confidence in American business. While GM and Chrysler LLC, as well as any other maker in trouble right now, needs to consider even unthinkable options and test our common assumptions as they get out of this trouble, this merger does not inspire hope.


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Exhaust Note #31: Goodbye, TrailBlazer and Envoy!

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Oh, and Saab 9-7X, too
Last week was full of horrible sales results. The worst single month of sales since February 1993, in fact. In the midst of abysmal sales and the brouhaha to get the financial sector bailout passed, for better or worse, General Motors said production of the GMC Envoy and Chevrolet TrailBlazer will end in December 2008. This is two years earlier than once planned, though not much earlier than many guessed. Are you sad? Saying goodbye to a truly American vehicle?

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2009 GMC Envoy Denali: The end of the line.

We’re not, really. The TrailBlazer and Envoy have come to their logical end, not for being badly drawn or executed products, but because the General’s offerings today are better suited for real life. Envoy sales for 2008 are down 44.1% and TrailBlazer down 36.9%. In a tough economic situation where leasing and credit are more difficult to get and buyers seem perfectly happy to delay big-ticket purchases, why continue them for another year?
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2009 Chevrolet TrailBlazer SS: Will you miss the 390HP stompin’ SS? Or just move on to a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8?


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Exhaust Note #30: It’s the 1970s All Over Again! Or Is It?

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Is there no end to the bad news this year? Mortgage crisis. Sky-high fuel prices. Financial institutions dropping like flies. A steadily warming planet. And of course, rapidly declining auto sales. The last time things were this bad, disco was in, aesthetics and design were taking a huge leap backwards, and we were all driving ugly, emasculated, smog-controlled cars that were a sad echo of the fast and passionately styled cars of just a few short years past. Yes people, I’m talking about the 1970s, an era that Jalopnik.com, one of our favorite fellow automotive blogs, refers to as the Malaise Era.

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Is this what we’re doomed to?

Posted in: Exhaust Note

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Exhaust Notes #29: GM Celebrates 100 Years And…Hey, Where’s the Party?

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Last week, General Motors wrapped up its centennial celebration. If one thinks about GM’s prominence on the world landscape, it’s easy to see just how significant of an event this is. Even if you’ve never owned a GM vehicle yourself, think about the company’s impact on the American and global economies and its products’ impact on popular culture. Can you imagine an America where Chevrolet didn’t exist? What if there had never been songs about GTO’s or Cadillacs? How about a world where the word Camaro was simply French slang for “friend” or a Corvette was just a small gunboat used to escort convoys?

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Imagine a world without GM. It’s harder than it sounds.

Posted in: Exhaust Note, GM

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