Why don't we use push button shifters again?

I drive internationals at work and they have push button shifters, most new vehicles use electronic shifters anyways, why don’t we just go back to buttons.
Most vehicles don’t have a cable going tho the transmission anymore, its all electronic.

I know they had problematic push button shifters in the edsel and chryslers?

Are people to stupid to use a push button? Is there a law against them? What gives, we use push button starters again…

With hybrids and other CVT vehicles, I’m surprised they haven’t tried to yet.

Lincoln’s doing it on the new MKZ:


I looked and the prius has an aftermarket push button shifter.

I wouldn’t trust an aftermarket kit.

And, if Lincoln offers it, I’m surprised Mercedes or Lexus or BMW doesn’t offer something similar. I see it trending down into the sub-luxury market if it takes off. In 10 years we may just see a Civic or Yaris with a push button transmission.

Why stop there?
How about transmission controls on a touch screen.

I prefer avoiding unnecessary potential problems. Why increase the potential for failure? The initial input to put a transmission into operation is mechanical. The locking pawl in the park position must be released and valves must be moved to direct pressure to the appropriate servos to initiate the application of power to the output shaft. The shift mechanism could be minimalized. But why add more potential problems to the system?

Aston Martins have them. Many Jags have that stupid rotary knob that rises out of the center console. It’s easier to shift a lever by touch. Who wants to have to find the right buttons while they parallel park?

Push buttons take your eyes off the road if you have to downshift or upshift. Wrong buttons are the easiest to push. I like tap shifting on my car. It lets me concentrate more on texting. If I had a front up camera (instead of a back up camera) that connects to an ipad I wouldn’t have to look at the road anyway. Anybody want to try swipe steering? It works on the ipad.

The steering wheel air bag makes a perfect platform to rest an ipad. Will manufacturers be kind enough to incorporate a thumb mouse into the shift knob on manual transmission models?

@ rodknox

I prefer avoiding unnecessary potential problems. Why increase the potential for failure? The initial input to put a transmission into operation is mechanical. - See more at: http://community.cartalk.com/discussion/2293107/why-don-t-we-use-push-button-shifters-again#latest

The thing is that some/many modern cars and trucks no longer have a mechanical linkage anyway. Even if they look like a traditional shifter, they are just a switch. No cables to stretch or come loose. I believe the new f150’s are setup with electronic shifters, toyota, vw,bmw, many fords… I actually think electronic shifters eliminate problems, I have seen more problems with mechanical linkages. The internationals at work have had zero troubles with shifters.


I see your point, I have never had a problem with the internationals I drive, but I suppose grandma might get confused at the grocery store and end up launching her car thru the front window. Or a drunk leaving the bar would have trouble getting er into gear. Gotta dumb it down for the masses I guess. I never really thought about it, but some how I can shift the truck at work into gear without looking at the pad,

The older cars with floor shifted autos, you had to look down to see what gear it was in, there wasn’t a indicator on the dash like there is now a days.

I had 2 different vehicles that used “push button” shifting 40 years ago. I hated them then and I’m sure my position hasn’t changed. You could also have a hand crank on 4 cylinder engines but again…it’s old technology that no one liked.

The Mopar push button shift of the 60s used a shift cable that operated the transmission lever just as the column mounted lever. It was a marketing gimmick.

I’ve long believed that it was a great idea for which technology was finally available to reliably implement. But the industry these days is IMHO highly risk averse. Real change comes slowly.

Give them a while, the logic will kick in when the general public can handle the ergonomic ,eh,hem… ‘‘shift’’.

I think that shifters on the floor or column are more for the human ergonomics and not for technical operation.
As was mentioned, pushing the wrong botton would be far more easy and foreseeable as the major drawback .

My 06 Escape Hybrid is the poster child for un-neccessary waste of space in a center console.
– It’s a CVT…there’s nothing to shift !
Park, Reverse, Forward…big WHOOP ! who the heck needs a shif lever for that ?
---- My 08 Expedition too. What a waste of space. Give me a column shifter or buttons here too and I could have another passenger’s seat there just like its pickup truck brothers.

Asside from the design fact that a cable moves the lever on the transmission which moves the position sensor.
You can theorize that the electronic instructions from that position sensor could be re-designed for buttons easy enough as seen on some models already.
But is the human animal ready ?

I’ve driven MCIs with push button automatics. I didn’t like to reach down next to my seat and grope those shift buttons. Bluebirds had the good sense to place them on the dashboard.

I have no problem with RND buttons. But I would prefer downshift buttons replaced by a dial, since automatics have 10 speeds nowadays.

My parents owned a 1960 Rambler with the pushbutton automatic transmission. It was mechanically operated and not electrical. It gave no problem, but I really didn’t see the purpose of pushbuttons over a lever. Rambler adopted the pushbuttons for everything but its bottom line “American” models in 1958, but in 1963, went back to the lever for the automatic transmissions across the board. Chrysler pushbuttons were also mechanical and Chrysler adopted the pushbuttons in 1956 but returned to the lever for the 1965 models. The Edsel had the pushbuttons for the automatic transmission in the center of the steering wheel and were electrically operated. However, Edsel only used the push button arrangement on its top of the line Corsair and Citation models that were based on the Mercury platform. The lower models, based on the Ford Fairlane platform had the conventional lever for the automatic transmissions. When the 1959 Edsels came out, the only Edsels were on the Ford Fairlane platforms and the pushbuttons were gone. Packard had the electric push button controls starting in 1955, but when Packards became glorified Studebakers in 1957 the pushbuttons were gone.
However, the push button automatic transmissions, like the South, may rise again. In 1955, the Chrysler corporation cars had a lever coming out of dashboard for the automatic transmission instead of the lever on the steering column. In 1956, this lever was replaced by pushbuttons. My 2011 Toyota Sienna has the automatic transmission lever on the dashboard. Since history seems to repeat itself, I envision this being succeeded by pushbuttons.


Ahh yes, we have one odd duck truck at work, the only one we have like it, its an 05 gmc with an allison trans, the push button controls are on the dash and I agree its better than the internationals which are a more traditional placement.


Another entertaining, informative post. Have you ever considered writing a book or magazine articles If you haven’t already?

My buddy in HS had a pushbuttoon automatic back in the '60s. It seemed to work okay, but hey, what do a couple of HS kids know of reliability? Especiially back in the '60s.

Push buttons for an all electronic transmission make great sense.
We now have a lot of electric steering in place of hydraulics.
What’s next ?
– Lets take the A/C out of the engine rpm load and make it a constant speed electric compressor ( much like a refrigerator ) which then could be mounted anywhere else.

Joy stick steering ( with accelerator too ) anyone ?