A question about cars (gearboxes) and mentality?

Hi all, please tell me what type of car you drive. I mean does your care have a manual gearbox or automatic? Why am I asking this question? I think a lot of Germans seem to prefer cars with manual gearboxes while most American drive cars with autmotatic gearboxes. Why is that? Are the Americans lazier than the Germans ;-)? Maybe Jamie (K) can enlighten us on this?
Talk soon,

Hi Frank,

I’ve been driving manual cars all my life, but wouldn’t mind switching to an automatic one, though they are not very popular here. The other way round would be more complicated, I think, a bit like having to learn to drive all over again.

I drive a Ford SUV with a manual transmission. (Technically, I should say it has a manual transaxle.) It has a five-speed stick shift on the floor. I like to use a manual transmission, because I feel like I have more control over what the car does, especially at acceleration. I also prefer the tight handling of German cars, but the two VWs I have owned had such poor quality and durability that I never bought another one.

I can’t say for sure why Americans prefer to have an automatic transmission. There could be a few different reasons.

One is that it is much less complicated to drive an automatic. Driving a stick shift is a special skill that takes time and effort to learn.

Another reason could be that the driver’s training cars almost always have automatic transmissions. When I had driver’s training in high school (it was a regular high school subject that I had in the morning every day during “third hour”), we went to the driving range and had a choice of about 16 cars to drive around the track. You had every super-cool American muscle car, and a few sedans and station wagons. The only one with a stick was a VW Beetle, and if you wanted to learn to drive it, you had to ask permission, and an assistant had to ride in the car with you.

Another reason Americans drive automatics more than sticks may be that we are generally not penalized in the price of the car if we prefer to buy an automatic.

One of the biggest reasons Americans drive automatics is that we live in our cars. Our cars are rolling living rooms, kitchens or offices, because we have to drive such long distances. You can’t waste one hand on the stick shift when you might need it to eat dinner or do some other task. There was a good article about this in the Wall Street Journal not long ago. Volkswagen couldn’t seem to arrive at the right designs for the US, so they sent a product development team to ride around with Americans and see how they use their cars. They were very shocked. For Germans, it’s all about driving the car. For Americans, the car is our rolling home away from home, and we use it much differently. For example, American dealers would complain that they needed more cupholders in the cars, and other features, but managers and designers in Wolfsburg never took them seriously. Finally, this team realized that VW was designing completely the wrong cars.