The Stop-Sale of Manual GT3s in California is No Big Deal


It’s a headline that sounds ready-made for outrage-clicks from both the #savethemanuals crowd and those who dislike too much regulation of autos: “Porsche 911 GT3 Manual Can’t be Sold in California.”

Some outlets used some variation of that wording when reporting the story. A story that sounds like a case of overbearing regulators killing the fun by meddling in the free market. Add in the California factor — remember, it’s the only state that can set its own emissions standards — and feel the blood boil.

Truth is, the story is a bit more mundane than all that.

To be fair, many outlets did get at the truth in their subheadlines and/or in the body of their tweets. And even those who used the headline construction above weren’t technically wrong. Nor can I say for sure that they were intentionally omitting detail to increase clicks. You can even argue that since the headline is technically accurate, it’s not shady to leave out detail in order to get dem clicks — I am sure we at TTAC have pulled similar maneuvers.

Whatever — the point of this story isn’t to accuse our competition of “clickbait“, but to point out that the actual story of why Porsche can’t sell manual GT3s in California, at least for the moment, is really no reason to panic if you like three-pedal machines.

Car and Driver has the skinny, even though their story doesn’t mention the reasons for the manual ban in the headline or subhead.

The stick wasn’t banned by the fun police or because of some emissions thing — it’s all about noise. For reasons laid out by Road & Track, the manual GT3 is louder than the two-pedal version. And it doesn’t pass the test procedure for exterior noise, last revised in 1998. There is a newer standard, and Porsche almost certainly designed its car to meet that newer standard, but for whatever reason, Cali is still using the old one.

Again, we aren’t going to accuse our competitors of using misleading (though technically accurate) headlines for “clickbait” for the reasons listed above. But it’s a reminder that when you see headlines like that floating around Twitter, it’s best to actually read the story before letting your outrage get to you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how Twitter can amplify minor stories and take them out of context and thus stir silly debates that aren’t even rooted in fact — discussion about Twitter’s ability (and social-media’s ability in general) to distort our discourse has been a topic of interest lately — and based on a few tweets I saw, this story appears to be an example of that. It’s really a mundane story, and there’s a good chance the regs are updated soon, but a few folks choose to rail against California rules, or how California is no longer a great place for car enthusiasts, or whatever their particular hobby horse is, using this story as a jumping-off point. Never mind that there probably isn’t any deeper meaning here other than maybe bureaucracy being slow. Oh, and that you shouldn’t panic if you like manual Porsches, even if you live in the Golden State.

Yes, I get it. It’s annoying if you live in California and want a GT3 manual or already ordered one. And it is a newsworthy story, though a mild one. But here’s the truth: It’s just a quirk of bureaucracy meeting a quirk of engineering, and either California will fix the rule or Porsche will adjust, the stick-shift will likely eventually be sold in California, and life will move on.

It’s easy to be outraged by a headline or a tweet — or a tweeted headline. Indeed, outrage has occasionally driven journalism, in at least some form, since the trade began (headlines designed to play on emotion pre-date the Internet, so it’s not like “clickbait” is some new concept). It’s not even necessarily unethical for outlets to use outrage to get attention — as long as the headline is accurate and fair.

What’s harder is taking the time to actually read the story. Even those outlets who listed the noise-regulation as the cause of the stop-sale in their headline weren’t able to go in-depth until the actual body text. Headlines, by definition, cannot and do not tell the whole story.

So the next time you panic about some state regulation or some OEM doing something that might kill your car-enthusiast fun, give the story a read before you let your emotion compel you in sending a rage retweet.

[Image: Porsche]

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