It’s the end of an era with the growing popularity of automatic cars
Bijoy Kumar, Richard Meaden & Richard Porter
AM I FROM THE OLD SCHOOL OR THE NEW school? I have no idea. Perhaps ‘no school’ is more like it. My daughter, Miura, completed her 12th grade board exams and is all set to turn 18 in June. And she has been patiently waiting for the day when she could officially drive. I was glad that my ‘generation Z’ daughter has some interest in driving while my millennial son despises the idea. The old school me wanted her to get her first lesson in a car with manual gear shift while the new school me dreaded whether she would lose interest in driving completely, having to use the clutch. After a lot of thinking I handed her the keys to the old Mercedes with an automatic gear box one fine morning and occupied the passenger seat. She was a natural behind the wheel and expertly navigated through the maze of morning walkers. By the third day she even guided the car through the gate of the building and parked in the designated slot. Alright, she almost banged the gate as well as my XUV – mind you Mercs don’t have the traditional hand brake and I could slot the gear selector to ‘park’ only if she braked in time. She did, thankfully on both occasions.
Now that I have done my job of initiating her into driving, she can join a driving school and go through the legal process of getting a licence. It is another thing that she won’t be getting an auto box at the driving school and soon will have to learn to live with the clutch. But why? Statistics suggest that my daughter can forget the ‘clutch’ generation. Automatic and automated manual transmission (AMT) cars have been doing well in India and my
quick Google search proves that almost 12 per cent of all cars sold in 2018 were automatics. In China, automatics account for over 50 per cent while in the USA it is above 85 per cent. While almost every luxury car features automatic transmission, the number of small cars available with auto boxes are growing too, with over a dozen affordable ones in the Indian market. Add to this the fact that all the electric vehicles sold in the world feature some form of automatic transmission.
Sure, it was sacrilege to mention that you liked automatics when I was a full-fledged motoring scribe. You immediately got disowned by the ‘enthusiast’ genre who always wanted to keep the car ‘on the boil’ and ‘go through’ the gear box to extract the best 0-100kmph runs. It is all fine on airstrips and tracks, but when you are tackling traffic at Kandivali, even a Lamborghini is best left at ‘drive’ mode. Even on a race track, the manual mongers are better off hanging on to the steering with both hands than shifting gears in high performance cars like the BMW M3. I learnt early that anything above 200bhp on tap is best without a clutch unless your last name is Fangio or Moss. Trust me, you don’t want to get your gear shift wrong as you are exiting a corner in a supercar.
My daughter will be learning a skill that she will have to forego in her life time as driverless cars are almost a reality already. Sure, it will take some time to fine-tune the practical issues and legal angles but hey, the day when you sit in a cage and type in the destination and read a novel is not too far away. Till then, she can ‘stick’ to automatics, I think. ⌧
It was sacrilege to mention that you liked automatics when I was a FULL-flEDGED motoring scribe