It isn’t every day that you come across an automaker that actually takes your opinion to heart, then redesigns a car to give consumers what they want. Most manufacturers are more likely to look at the bottom line, say something about how it will cost too much, and that will be the end of it. Car making is not some wild dance party where we can randomly throw requests at a DJ so our track will play next; cars are carefully thought out by a team of engineers and designers, and we the people have a “take it or leave it” choice when it comes time to buy. Subaru didn’t ask us if we wanted a CVT transmission on virtually every single model, it forced it on us and then decided against bring back the hatchback version of the WRX we were begging for all along. The days of “giving the people what they want” appears to hold less water than you might think.
But just at our darkest hour, a beacon appeared as we learned that Jaguar was releasing its supercharged F-Type with a manual gearbox last year at the L.A. Auto Show. Jaguar wasn’t doing this for the critics and reviewers, they were doing it for both the pure-blooded auto enthusiast and to show the world that automakers need to listen to what people want instead of telling them what they will get.
A review by Road & Track from earlier this year makes mention of how the British brand put the six-speed manual in its supercharged V6 version primarily because “dealers reported that real-world customers wanted it” and that “if you closed your eyes while playing with the stick, you’d swear you were in a BMW.” And while it may not have as sharp of a throw as, say, the new Miata, or have the clutch feel of the new Type-R Civic, we feel that Jaguar’s choice to mate a manual gearbox with a rear-wheel drive configuration on the manageable 340-380 horsepower V6 was a stroke of genius.
It goes to show that when enough performance enthusiasts and brand loyalists complain and then threaten to take their money elsewhere, automakers suddenly are all ears. Or at least that’s how it should be; most of the time, a manufacturer will just brush off complaints, saying that it’s just people being nit-picky, and that they should consider another car in the line-up. We can’t blame them either, because if automakers actually took every grievance into consideration, we would be up to our ears in redesigned models that cater to everyone and no one at the same time. This is where Jaguar has the upper hand: They have a very exclusive, high-end level of clientele, and a car like the F-Type carries with it an even more specialized kind of buyer.
Has Jaguar found an angle that makes it look better than its competition? Variety is the spice of life, and if we want to heat things up, maybe turning to a company that pays attention to our needs like no other sure sounds like a great place to start.
With companies like Local Motors bringing us crowdsourced awesomeness like the “Street Fighter 01,” this trend of voting on what direction a carmaker should follow is growing in popularity. As consumers, we already have a gazillion factory options to choose from when we purchase a vehicle, and with companies throwing us a bevy of tasty aftermarket morsels labeled as “factory performance packages,” having a multitude of options means both a satisfied customer and an up-sale for dealers.
Jaguar isn’t the only one asking for our input — the VP of Honda of North America surprised everyone during the New York Auto Show by stating “I’d ask for your vote on whether we should bring the Type R here [to the U.S.]” and when the crowd responded with a resounding “YES!!!” he proclaimed “OK then, lets do it!” Seeing this kind of interaction during a live segment of a presentation not only builds brand excitement, but it instills a level of trust in the consumer who might be seriously considering a competitor’s product.
So what is the best way of letting a manufacturer know that we the people want to see a massive design overhaul, or a manual gearbox in a car? Start by talking to a dealer, and then contact the automaker directly with a petition with hundreds of signatures. It sounds like a lot of work, but with enough griping, and the power in numbers to support a claim it will soon be an issue that is impossible for any automaker to ignore. It worked for Jaguar fans, why not see if we can get other automakers to follow suit?
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