Get rid of automatic cars

Last updated 05:00 31/01/2013

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I don't know that it will fix New Zealand's whole economy, but we can probably save a bit on imported petrol by getting rid of automatic gearboxes.

Looking over some figures for new cars, manual gearbox versions often save 1 litre per 100km or more for small models. Manual cars are also cheaper and often have other performance advantages such as a higher towing ability.

So why do we need automatic cars at all? Some people might not be able to use a manual for physical reasons, and they should certainly be allowed to drive an automatic.

Some people simply find automatic cars easier to drive and it is convenient - we import bucketloads of used cars from Japan and elsewhere where they are the most popular gearbox choice. But these don't sound like compelling reasons to me.

How much gas would it save the country if we didn't have automatics? At 1 litre per 100 km, assuming new cars drive 15,000km per year, that's 150 litres per car per year. According to NZTA stats, in 2011 we imported about 144,000 'new' cars. If 100,000 of those were automatics that could be replaced by manuals, that is a potential saving of 15 million litres of petrol per year.

Similar savings would be made every year until the cars of that year started being removed from use in significant numbers - say 15 years down the track - and that's 200+ million litres saved per year.

In the context of the whole country that's not a lot of money, but it is also not chicken feed!

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