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Discussion Starter #1
The question was posed why do Europeans mainly buy manual transmissions and Americans, automatics.

The simple answer is taxes. If you look at European luxury cars, they all have automatics either standard or available. However the average person gets a double whammy: U$4/gal gasoline and annual taxes based on engine displacement. Europeans also tend to be somewhat fanatical on maintenance.

One shock is that over there a 2 liter car is generally an upgrade and 3 liters-on are for the well to do. The great bulk of the cars in Europe are 1-2 liters with a considerable segment under 1 liter. While it is possible to fit an automatic to such small engines, they take a significant toll in both performance and MPG.

OTOH in the USofA we have very long distances, (relatively) cheap gas, and no tax on engine size. As a consequence American cars expanded into large displacement, slow turning engines, that can go for a very long time on little or no maintenance. Ideal for development of automatics.

Interestingly the first massproduced GM automatic was a four speed fluid (close to a lockup) drive, the Hydramatic and while very heavy was considerably more efficient than the three speed TurboHydramatic or two speed PowerGlide that followed. This is because the American driver has always been more concerned about sticker price than economy.

Since a series of oil crisis have driven the price of a gallon of gas from 30 cents in the early seventies to pushing two dollars today, a six-fold increase in thirty years, American manufacturers have learned to make more efficient engines and transmissions. Even at three liters that is less than half the size of a Buick or Pontiac deluxe V-8 in 1973 and automatic transmissions are now four speed O/D lockups (essentially five speeds).

All of which is the natural result of a completely different evolutionary process going on over here, a similar difference (metered vs unmetered telephones) which made the Internet so pervasive in the US and a luxury in Europe.

This difference meant that the US has a tremendous lead in the development of automatics and now GM is working on CVTs (continuously variable transmissions) first seen in Europe in the 1960s but abandoned. For quite some time Rolls Royce bough TurboHydros from GM.

So once you understand the market drivers, why the US has so many more automatics than Europe becomes obvious (and given a choice most europeans would prefer them also - look at the popularity of paddle shifters in the UK).
 

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The 2004 GTO has a $1000 gas guzzler tax if you go with the automatic transmission.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
and the six speed is optional at extra cost but is cheaper because it does not have to pay the tax. Somehow I doubt that the GG Tax will be an issue for the Solstice.
 

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padgett said:
and the six speed is optional at extra cost but is cheaper because it does not have to pay the tax. Somehow I doubt that the GG Tax will be an issue for the Solstice.
I'd say at 22 city and 28 highway, that's not a concern.
 

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Solstice should have the dual clutch sequential shift technology to offer both a five or six speed manual and automatic modes..

Like the Audi TT.

JMO
 

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padgett said:
So once you understand the market drivers, why the US has so many more automatics than Europe becomes obvious (and given a choice most europeans would prefer them also - look at the popularity of paddle shifters in the UK).
Nice write-up on the differences and what drove both automotive environments.

Its really no surprise that Europeans would ultimately prefer autos to me so long as they were practical in their vehicles. Americans like to point to the high number of manuals in Europe and use it as an indication that they are all driving fun sports cars and enjoy snicking through the gears. But not everyone in Germany is behind the wheel of an M3 sedan!

It will be interesting to see if demand increases any on manuals in the US, especially in small cars, if gas prices continue to rise. Even with more efficient engines and automatics, many people still believe manuals get better mileage, even though they do not get significantly better mileage in some instances (in fact a Celica GT auto gets better mileage than a Celica GT manual!).
 

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Fformula88 said:
It will be interesting to see if demand increases any on manuals in the US, especially in small cars, if gas prices continue to rise.
I really doubt it. All imported cars have come to the states innitially manual only, and then forced to adapt an automatic to meet demand. All of them. I can't think of one brand that has been able to remain manual only. I think gas would have to go to $5 a gallon before we would seriously consider the difference in mileage figures. I am an unusual American in that I much perfer to buy all my cars and trucks manual if possible, not because of mileage, but because I prefer the added control you get over the vehicle. Increased mileage is just a bonus. Just about everyone else feels the opposite.
 

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Other than the CV's on some scooters, motorcycles continue to be manual with just a couple of exceptions. But it's not because there's not a market for shiftless bike.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Think on a bike, it is more a matter of space & weight (Honda had an automatic in the '70s, a 750 AFAIR). Keep in mind that you do not need three feet for a bike and they already have a ratchet shifter & multi-disk clutches

The problem with CVTs has been a lack of ability to handle torque, around 100 lb-ft is it.

Just for phun, ask any major european race driver what their faimily car is :jester

Fact is that we do automatics better than just about anyone else and with lockup torque converters and long gears there is no real difference in mpg.

And for a final note, yes, you have more control with an automatic, more control to do the wrong thing 8*). In a trial, nothing shifts faster than an automatic and you do not have to lift your foot from the floor (can do the same with a Muncie if you have a spare in the truck).

The problem with automatics has traditionally been that their timing may not be yours (a rental Hyundai GX-350 had a side shifter but you would waggle the lever and some random time later it would shift. Or not. Depending.) This is a matter of programming and can be altered to RIGHT NOW (I drove some prototype "E" trannys that had this box on the seat. Could bark the tires with any gearchange).

So personally I think the general would be making a major mistake to not have a steering wheel controlled paddle shifter available as available for the Grand Prix. And the bean counters do not make those kinds of mistakes. The warrenty department even thanks them for it.

The only thing that could keep an automatic out of the Solstice is if GM did not have one available that fit. (Until 1968, all Corvette automatics had two speed Powerslides because a 400 was too long). Can you say "5L40E" ?
 

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AeroDave said:
I really doubt it. All imported cars have come to the states innitially manual only, and then forced to adapt an automatic to meet demand. All of them. I can't think of one brand that has been able to remain manual only. I think gas would have to go to $5 a gallon before we would seriously consider the difference in mileage figures. I am an unusual American in that I much perfer to buy all my cars and trucks manual if possible, not because of mileage, but because I prefer the added control you get over the vehicle. Increased mileage is just a bonus. Just about everyone else feels the opposite.
Your probably right that people would not return to them. Maybe they would accept more CVT’s. But don’t forget people are banging down the doors at Toyota to grab a Prius Hybrid on the notion its more fuel efficient than a similar gas-powered (or diesel) economy car. We might not need $5 a gallon to do it. Only the fear that gas prices might go up someday.
 

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Fformula88 said:
Your probably right that people would not return to them. Maybe they would accept more CVT’s. But don’t forget people are banging down the doors at Toyota to grab a Prius Hybrid on the notion its more fuel efficient than a similar gas-powered (or diesel) economy car. We might not need $5 a gallon to do it. Only the fear that gas prices might go up someday.
Well, the hybrids are a different phenomonon. People are buying those because of the enviromental angle. Buying a Prius allows you to wear your enviromentalism on your sleave. It gives you a position of moral superiority. They feel they are part of the solution by supporting technology that will save the earth, and the rest of us a part of the problem. Small, fuel efficeint cars have been around forever with little demand in this country, so if it was just about saving gas, people would've been buying fuel efficiency all along.

I might also point out that people aren't banging down the doors to get Chevy Aveos, when they no doubt get very good mileage (I haven't looked it up yet), and with the money you save on purchase price over a Prius you can buy a ton of gas. So if it was just about saving money, the Prius really isn't the way to go. But sadly, a Prius is really about bragging rights. Actually a car like the Smart Twofor or Fourfor is actually much better for the enviroment than a Prius because there is no toxic batteries to deal with when they die. The Smarts are easily recyclable and the Prius is not. So if people really cared about the enviroment, they would be clammoring for a car like the Smart, but no, you gotta have a gimmick these days.
 

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Saturn has had exclusive rights to GM's CVT technology since 2002. Saturn refers to it now as VTi (variable transmission). You can get it on the ION Quad Coupe and VUE. However you can only get it with the 140 HP 2.2L ECOTEC.

Supposedly...
The CVT reportedly uses 45 percent fewer parts than a standard four-speed automatic transmission. The company says the CVT, mated to the 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, delivers a 7 percent improvement in fuel economy over the automatic transmission and provides seamless acceleration.
But just like you said padgett, the big issue has always been being able to handle the power put through a CVT without it slipping. GM has gotten it to work with their 140 HP 2.2L ECOTEC, but nothing more powerful yet.
 

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my wife doesn't want to drive a standard, so on our BMW we ordered the automatic trans. it has a normal/sport mode in addition to a 'tiptronic' style sequential shifter (like the old his/hers shifter). the sport mode does a fine job of upshifting and downshifting in the right places, but i find myself using the sequential shifter often.... it is fun, however it is not quite the experience of a manual shifter.
i could be convinced that an automatic gets through a slalom faster, and drag racers have been using auto trans since forever, but to me the experience of driving is more satisfying when i am shifting through the gears- it is like a dance between the gas the clutch the shifter and the road. fortunately, the solstice (probably) won't offer an automatic at first, so i get my manual trans by default. i'm happy
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Pretty sure the GM CVT is a variation of the cone/roller (toroidal) system developed in Texas in the '70s and not the belt system used by NSU and DAF. So after 30 years of development it has gone from 100 hp max to 140 hp max.

There is also a variation used on jet engines for their alternator drives. The whole point of a Continuously Variable Transmission is so that under load the engine runs at a very narrow rpm range which can be optomised for efficiency.

Loooong time ago I experienced a DAFodil and it was interesting to drive since when you put your foot on the gas, the engine rose in pitch to a specific speed and stayed there while the car slowly gathered speed.

Am certain there must be warring camps between VVT and CVT as they are pretty much mutually exclusive.
 
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