With more and more new-car buyers choosing automatic transmissions over manuals, why do tachometers still have such a large presence on dashboards?
The tachometer displays engine speed in revolutions per minute, and it can be useful in cars where there’s a provision to control automatic-transmission gear changes. “Being aware of engine rpm can help you maximize not only power, but also get good gas mileage,” Volkswagen spokeswoman Leigh Anne Sessions said.
Some cars, mostly fuel-efficient models like the Toyota Prius family, Nissan Leaf and Ford Fusion Hybrid, have done away with a tachometer altogether, but automakers are also incorporating new technology into the gauge. Through an Auto Stop position, GM is using the tachometer to communicate whether the engine is on or off in cars with fuel-saving stop-start technology, said Kurt Tesnow, technical lead engineer for instrument clusters.
For many pickup truck drivers, the tachometer isn’t just useful, it’s essential. “When it comes to towing, drivers who use diesel depend on their tachometer way more than the speedometer,” PickupTrucks.com Editor Mark Williams said. Both the engine and fuel efficiency are often strongest in the 2,000-rpm range, he added.
Neither Volkswagen nor GM predicts tachometers will follow front bench seats, spare tires, and tape decks into the automotive graveyard, but that doesn’t necessarily mean drivers will pay more attention to the gauge.