Apparently the good old British public now can't get enough of them, having viewed such devices with the utmost suspicion for years.
As an ex-resident of California, where you'll hardly ever see a 'stick shift' (their phrase for a manual gearbox), I have had a love affair with autoboxes for years – I don't understand why anyone would want to drive anything else.
So I'm pleased to see that they are finally catching on here. They are ideal for any fleet drivers who spend a lot of time either in cities or in traffic jams – it takes a whole lot of hassle out of the business of driving.
Our Honda Accord is technically a semi-automatic. You can either use it in full auto mode or flick the stick sideways and 'paddle' up and down through the gears. Quite why anyone would bother to do that is beyond me but the facility is there if you want it.
With a seamless change, it all works a treat and I shall be quite sad to swap – as we all must here at Fleet Towers – back into a manual.
Of course, there are downsides to having an automatic. For starters this car is exactly £1,000 more than its manual counterpart in P11d price and as the fleet driver is taxed on the price of the car, he or she will have to cough up an extra £50 a year in tax for the privilege of having an auto. In my book it's a small price to pay, but some may baulk at the extra.
From the company point of view, this car will cost marginally more than the manual equivalent. At three years/60,000 miles CAP Monitor estimates it will be worth £8,150 as opposed to £7,925 for the manual. That means it will cost a company £11,850 over three years against £11,075 for the manual.
Then there is a price to be paid in both miles per hour and miles per gallon. The other problem is that with the left hand and foot made virtually redundant there is always a temptation for your drivers to indulge in dodgy activities on the road such as using a mobile phone, eating kebabs and lighting up cigarettes.
The Accord is proving a stylish and able performer. I never really liked the look of the old model – I considered it a tad too chunky – but this new incarnation puts the Accord bang up there with the best. Several of my friends have remarked on its looks.
The previous tester praised the Accord's motorway cruising abilities and I'd have to agree with him wholeheartedly. I recently took a trip from my home in Peterborough to Southend-On-Sea with my son, picking up my daughter, father and aunt at three different locations.
The five of us had plenty of room and got there and back in utmost comfort. The air conditioning system ensured we weren't too hot and the superb stereo system soothed us nicely through the inevitable traffic jams that we encountered.
The only point I would mark the Accord down for is its general road holding capabilities. Although it never feels as though it will let you down, the car somehow lacks that pin-sharp crispness that is offered with the Ford Mondeo and the Mazda6.
As a heavy right-footer, the car's fuel economy has worsened too since I took possession of it, dropping from 33.3mpg to 32.7mpg. Mind you, automatics always use more fuel than manuals and I don't consider that a bad figure for a car of this size.
Company car tax bill 2003/04 (40% tax-payer) £152 per month