Bic Lighters on Wheels

You buy a disposable lighter, use it until the fluid inside is used up – then you throw it away and buy a new one.

Hence disposable.

Cars are becoming that way.

Hell, they already are.

Have you priced a replacement automated manual transmission?

Emphasis on replacement. These boxes don’t get rebuilt. When they break, they get tossed – and your choice is to spend from $3,200 to $6,700 (see here) on a new automated manual transmission.

Or, toss the car.

Which becomes the more sensible choice when the car itself is no longer worth more than the cost of a new transmission. Which is a nexus that arrives sooner than you might think.

Or, hope.

Automated manuals are hugely complex – hence expensive. Both to service and (when the time comes) to replace. Probably because they are literally two transmissions in one. A manual and an automatic. Or more accurately, a manual that has been automated. There are clutches, but they are controlled by computers – not you.

These boxes have been marketed on the merits of their quick-shifting abilities, which is true. But the real reason for their now-widespread use is because of the slight efficiency advantage they have over a conventional automatic (or manual) transmission. They shift more precisely and more consistently precisely than a human can (besting the efficiency of a human-shifted manual) and because there is a direct mechanical connection between the engine, the transmission and the drive wheels (as is the case with a human-controlled manual transmission) they are more efficient than a conventional automatic(which slips a little through the hydraulic connection between the engine, the transmission and the drive wheels).

It’s worth about 3 MPG, on average vs. a conventional (hydraulic) automatic and about 5 vs. a conventional (human shifted) manual.

But it costs about $1,500 more up front than a conventional automatic or a conventional manual. Some of them cost several hundred bucks a pop to service, too. Instead of $60 for a fluid/filter change, it’s on the order of $400. This happens about once every 40,000 miles.

And then there’s the replacement cost, when the unit fails.

Which it will, eventually.

This is normal. Because all things mechanical (and biological) eventually wear out.


What’s not normal – well, not in terms of what we’re used to – is what you’re facing when the tranny fails. The replacement cost is often twice if not three or four times what it used to be. For instance, the VW DSG automated manual (see the link posted above), which is representative. About $3,200 on the low end for a new one. Utopia Towels Shop Tow... Buy New $19.99 (as of 10:05 UTC - Details)

Some (the “high-performance” versions) list for more than $6,500.

Not counting the labor to remove and install.

This undermines the economic value of the mileage gains because the total ownership cost has gone up – a lot. A car that cost you say $15,000 that needs a rebuilt $1,200 transmission (conventional; e.g., a four or five-speed overdrive) at 150,000 miles that averages 25 MPG is much more economical to own than an $18,000 car that hits you with a $3,200 bill for a replacement automated manual at 150,000 miles that averages 28 MPG.

$6,500 – and it’s throw away time for sure.

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