Chrysler will cease putting traditional owners manuals in cars starting in 2010. The beleaguered, bankrupted and now Fiat-owned automaker is instead replacing the ever-growing manuals with a basic 60-page guide plus a DVD. Chrysler is billing it as an environmentally friendly move that will also free up space in the glove box. Says Al Motta, director of service operations at Chrysler, “We're actually getting to the point where you could barely get this in the glove box. You couldn't get a pair of gloves in there with it.” This is becoming a bigger and bigger problem as automotive packaging keeps getting tighter and tighter.

If you've ever whipped out a modern owners manual, you know Mr. Motta has a very good point. Due to an ever-increasing array of features (navigation systems, stability control, MP3 player integration) and regulations, Chrysler's manuals are sometimes more than 500 pages long and weigh over four pounds. And by modern standards, that's not even very big. Anyone that's ever opened the glove of a late model Mercedes-Benz has been greeted by a sawed-off phone book. Even more ridiculous is the Nissan GT-R which comes with seven separate manuals (three for the warranty alone) and takes up nearly the entire glove box.

Shipping cars with instructional DVDs isn't new, but this is the first time a car maker has done so in place of a traditional owners manual. “It's a substantial savings, obviously, without doing the printing, but our focus was on the environment as well.” Says Motta. He figures that by Chrysler eliminating its printed manuals the company will save 20,000 trees a year. Again, that's just Chryler, and frankly they aren't selling many cars at this point in time. Imagine the environmental impact if giants like GM, Ford and Toyota all elected to provide mostly electronic manuals.

Besides the costs, the DVDs have the added advantages of allowing users to search by topic, rather than flip through a huge manual. Additionally, DVD-based owners manuals can include tutorials on more complicated tasks, such as removing the folding top and adding the hard top to a Jeep Wrangler, a very long and complicated process that involves a rubber mallet. Will other companies opt to start eliminating owners manuals? There's nothing official from any of them, but as cars have been and remain a copycat industry, we'd wager yes.

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