retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Kevin’s eye-opener in Monday’s MNB on the declining use and relevance of manual transmissions in cars probably elicited one of two reactions among our readers.

Many folks, like me, probably waxed nostalgic about those past times when stick shift was the only way to drive. We related to Kevin’s comments about how it enhanced the experience and put us in greater control of the ride.

But a second group - no doubt larger - was completely unmoved. They likely never drove with a stick or they have never actually seen a car with manual transmission. After all, as Kevin explained, those cars have become quite a rarity.

Time, innovation, technology and progress all march on and the march isn’t stopping anytime soon.

Ironically, I got a great example of that yesterday when my son and I wandered into the Tesla store in our local shopping mall. Not only is Tesla getting rid of gasoline powered engines, and even the traditional dealership structure, but the company also is feverishly working to eliminate one other element of the automotive experience.

The driver.

I know the technology isn’t perfect, just as I know many of us simply won’t want to abandon our control of the wheel. But a quick conversation with my son revealed he could see the day (in the far-off future I hope) when, as I age, that I'll be able to use a self-driving car because my skills will have deteriorated to the point where I no longer can drive competently.

In fact, I wish the technology were good enough today so that my father, who soon will be 90, would have a safer way to get around.

I imagine that the auto companies are heavily researching how to make driverless technology increasingly attractive to now aging baby boomers who grew up behind the wheel listening to songs about the driving experience. We have to believe the successful companies will figure it out before anyone takes our T-Bird or Little Deuce Coupe away. (If you don’t get those references, use Google. Better yet, if you want to watch a terrific movie about car culture, watch American Graffiti, which is the movie George Lucas made before he conceived of Star Wars.)

There’s a very clear parallel in all of this to how we cook. One week from now we’ll no doubt learn that more Americans celebrated Thanksgiving dinners with meals prepared by someone else. It might be supermarkets, restaurants or Amazon.com, but almost certainly Blue Apron will post some incredible statistics on its traffic marking yet another sea change for the holiday that most revolves around food.

Even many scratch cooks will use partially prepared products to assemble their meals. For some it’s analogous to giving up manual transmission; for others it’s driverless cars.

So like the car companies, the food industry needs to continually figure out how to manage the changing nature of cooking. For instance, consider a recent article at Mashable.com suggesting the best kitchen gifts to give people who hate to cook. (You can read it here.)

As the author suggests, some of these people don’t want to cook at all. Yet some of these gifts may help make the process so simple it might get even the most reluctant person back in the kitchen.

Time marches on and we have to move with it.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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