A brief history of push-button transmission controls

As the article notes, they have returned, on the Lincoln Navigator.


Pushbuttons were modern and cool and too far ahead of their time. They used additional electromechanical devices to shift gears. Too much to go wrong.

Modern pushbutton transmission to command solenoid valves eliminate parts. Simpler, so more reliable.

Makes it tough to move a dead car though, because you can’t get it out of park and into neutral to tow.


Back when my wife bought her 2018 Cadillac, I was hoping she would choose a Lincoln because the push button trans controls were so nice. I’d like to see that on all cars, the “dummy” shifter which isn’t even connected to the trans just takes up valuable space in the console.


My wife’s 2019 Odyssey uses push buttons in the dash and it works well. My Tesla Model 3 uses a stalk but it’s all electric. Push way up for reverse and way down for drive. Neutral is a short up or down depending on which gear you are in. It’s like the blinkers. A button on the end of the stalk puts it in park.

Seems like every make has now re-invented the gearshift, with confusing results.


Lexus now activates “Park” with the push of a large button, but the remainder of the shift quadrant is activated via the movement of a traditional stick.

What is not immediately apparent, and what took me a couple of drives to learn, is that one does not pull the shift lever backward in order to go from “P” to “R”. Essentially, one has to learn that “N” is active–even though it is not lit up initially–and that the driver moves the shift lever forward to go from “P” into “R”, and backward to go from “P” into “D”.

As CR stated, this is counterintuitive, but most drivers should be able to figure it out after a couple of times. However, this would be a problem for someone who isn’t familiar with the arrangement, such as the first-time driver and also parking attendants.

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My Model 3 has one forward gear and one reverse and I have to manually engage them. Is this a manual transmission? :smile:


Parking attendants should be familiar with the gear selector, the Toyota Prius gear shift pattern has been that way for 20 years.