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Why is AUTOMATIC shifter in middle console instead of behind steering wheel?

We could use the space for food and drink and other things like cell phone, readinglasses, GPS, etc.
Instead, the shift lever for the automatic is placed there, right in the way.
Any reason?
Thank you.
Edit: I should have stated automatic transmission.
I’m all for a manual transmission stick being placed there.

It is “sporty”. If you don’t like it, there are other cars that use a column shifter, ie Ford Taurus of old.

Originally, that’s where the transmission was, and in the spirit of keeping it simple, the shift lever was located on the top of the transmission itself.
Then in the early 50’s or so, some wisenheimer decided to move the shifter to the steering column necessitating shifting rods and linkages resulting in rubbery shifting and occasional problems but it was cool because models in A-line dresses posed next to the car in the commercials while the tune “Happy go Lively” played in the background behind the narrator’s spiel.

You’re asking us to condone additional distractions while driving. No can do.

Maybe … and I’m just spit-ballin’ here … the designers didn’t think you should be eating and drinking, or doing other things, while you drive. With the shifter in your way, you might pay more attention to driving.

Throughout the history of the automobile, the manufacturers couldn’t seem to please anybody with the placement of the shifter. In 1938, as an option, some cars offered the “remote shifter on the steering column”. By 1939, the steering column shift was standard on almost all cars. Ford stuck with the floor shift until 1940. In the 1950s, floor shift kits were offered to convert your steering column shift to a floor shift. Chrysler moved the automatic transmission selector from the steering column to a lever on the dashboard in 1955. In 1956, Chrysler replaced the shift lever on the dashboard with pushbutton. In 1965, Chrysler returned to a steering column selector. My 2011 Toyota Sienna has the shifter on the dashboard. I think the Toyota engineers studied the 1955 Plymouth.

With the exception of a few sports cars, pretty much every car out there with a floor shifter also has cup holders next to it. Exactly how many big gulps do you need to carry at a given time?

"With the exception of a few sports cars, pretty much every car out there with a floor shifter also has cup holders next to it. Exactly how many big gulps do you need to carry at a given time? "

If you compare the typical modern car with a floor shift to one with a column shift made as recently as the late '80s-early '90s, the one with the floor shift has much more in the way of storage cubby holes, cup holders, and other places to stash whatever a driver and passenger want close at hand while they travel.

Just how much do you need to have within your reach while driving?
Have you considered how much of a potential distraction each extra object might represent?
Have you considered the danger of extra distractions while driving your Expedition at speeds of over 100 mph?

LOL…You will never live down your 105-MPH-in-an-Expedition post, Robert. My little Versa has a 6-speed stick with a floor shifter, and it has 2 cup holders in front of the shifter, plus water bottle holders in the map pockets. There are also 2 cup holders at the rear of the center console for back seat passengers.

I’m not a fan of distractions while driving, but I really do like having a place for my coffee, so I have come to appreciate the cup holders that have sprung up in cars in the last 15 years. With the stick shift, I only drink it while stopped anyway.

My conspiracy theory is ;
“they”'re trying to keep the third person out of the front seat where there is no air bag.

Out here in pickup truck country it’s typical to see six people in the one seat of a standard pickup.
Now it’s increasingly hard to get a standard pickup, let alone vinyl seats and rubber floor mats. I’ts changing to super cabs and four doors and THAT thingy in the middle !

My 08 Expedition has that massive box in the way there and sillier yet my 06 Escape hybrid. The hybrid is a CVT transmission. Aside from park, reverse, and drive, there’s certainly no shifting to be done while cruising down the boulevard. Why put in a floor shifter ? silly.

With the floor shifter, your front passenger does not have to lean over to verify that the shifter is, indeed, in neutral, just in case your heavy duty floor mat has caught the throttle in go mode

Minivans have the shifter on the dashboard. And you must be driving the wrong vehicle. I have room on the console for a drink and food by sitting the bag over the rear-most cup holder. All this in a tiny Honda Accord. I can even fit food in front of the shifter if I want to. 2 bags of goodies!

Because it’s cheaper to do it that way and the steering column is too busy already. When you add in tilt and telescoping steering columns, which are already packed full of various control functions, air-bags, jamming the shifter in there too puts things into overload…

My shifter connects to a box with solenoid controls from there. So in many cars, it really can go anywhere. I see it on the wheel or dash eventually as some Honda models do to give you rear access. I don’t think it’s conspiracy, just engineering that will change and eventually give you what you like as Honda tries now.

If you wanted to keep your eyes on the road, it must have been like trying to enter a phone number on a push-button phone without looking at it.

I kind of like the shifter down in the center console. So I guess we all have our personal preferences.

I maintain that the optimal place with an automatic tranny is where Chrysler once put it, pushbuttons on the dash. A friend had a Dart in the late '60s with this setup. Technology was pretty basic back then, and the system was totally mechanical and not reliable, but with today’s technology a reliable row of shift buttons could easily be created.

Of course, I liked the “three on the tree” setup, so I may not be a good judge of these things…

“Of course, I liked the “three on the tree” setup”,

Me, too–especially if it has the vacuum assist as did the 1939-1948 Chevrolets.

“three on the tree”

Yuck. I much prefer the floor shifter. My 914 shifted especially well.

The advantage of gear shift levers over push button would seem be that it helps inhibit inadvertent shifting…like fido bumping into reverse at 70mph or down shifting at the wrse possible time.