Originally Posted by Year's_End
The issue isn't with crash testing. The problem has to do with a lack of sales. Your referencing of crash testing and regulations wouldn't be a problem for manufacturers selling mass-produced cars in large volume; that problem would affect much smaller brands or models that have an extremely low production unit run.
The "problem" is that automated transmissions have become vastly superior to their clutch operated alternatives in most critical areas. Fuel efficiency is superior thanks to the addition of more gears (allowing a compromise of tight packed ratios with a sixth, seventh or eighth gear for economy), faster shift speeds, smarter computers, and various other improvements, like torque converters being fully locked in 95% of driving situations.
The only reason manufacturers will offer a manual is if they believe it's beneficial from a sales perspective, either directly or indirectly; directly meaning a particular model is perhaps a [sports car, GT, muscle car, etc] and would attract a decent portion of manual-buying consumers, or indirectly meaning that the brand has an established image/tradition of offering manual transmissions (BMW and Porsche are prime examples), and keeping manuals on offer reinforces this image.
I'm all for manuals and more choice benefits us, the consumers. The fact of the matter is that we're an increasingly fractional minority in the buying world and sales is the end all be all. I'm sure that as much as some of these companies would love to offer manuals, they're in business for profit and sustainability, and the costs of additional R&D/engineering to fit two different types of transmissions in just doesn't make financial sense.
Well we are both correct actually. I agree that the newest autos with either dual clutch technology (which is just an automated shifting manual transmission), or advanced torque converter operation (locking torque converters have been around for 30 years or more) provide as good, or better fuel mileage (by just a few MPG though) than manuals. But automatics, regardless of how good they are, just do not offer the control that old dogs like me prefer. The main reason automatics are so popular is because people are lazy and really don't care about driving and would rather have their hands free to be distracted while driving.
The crash testing is expensive and as you've stated would not effect a model that has a large sales volume; but that is the point, the business case of offering a manual transmissioned model of a vehicle that has 95% of its sales as an automatic doesn't support spending the money to crash test the manual transmission version. If the USDOT would allow computer model simulation of crash testing the chassis regardless of drivetrain configuration it would drastically reduce the cost to the manufacturer to offer a more diverse model range. There is no engineering risk to crash test the chassis to collect real crash test data and then use that data in validation of computer simulation crash testing for the other drivetrain variations of the same chassis.
I'll give you an example; the new Cadillac ATS. It has 3 engines and two transmissions in its drivetrain component list. The 2.5L offered only with an automatic, the 2.0L Turbo offered both in manual and automatic, and the 3.6L V-6 offered only in automatic. Considering the 2nd gen CTS originally offered the same 3.6L V-6 with a manual transmission (now since dropped - sales) there is really no R&D dollars required to offer that combination in the new ATS. The clutch pedal system is already designed for the 2.0L Turbo, the engine/transmission design exists already from the CTS, so outside the transmission mounts and perhaps a different drive shaft and tuned gear ratios, there is not much additional cost to design the ATS 3.6 with a manual transmission. Cadillac will sell tens of thousands of 2.5L ATS for fleet sales (rental cars), which justify crash testing that configuration.
However add in the high cost to crash test the configuration and the business case is not there for the several hundred or few thousand buyers like me who want the 3.6/manual trans configuration to offer that version of the ATS. Let GM use computer simulation crash test data for the ATS chassis, regardless of its drivetrain layout, and GM could offer the ATS with a 3.6/manual combination. You could try make an argument around carrying the logistics costs for a rare drivetrain layout, and there is some cost there, but not that much - just a few part numbers in the database and some warehouse stock space.
Peace. Good discussion my friend.