There is no business, financial or manufacturing case for it. It is a design that dates back to the origins of the automobile. Why on earth in 2009 are brand new cars at Toyota, Nissan, Chevy, Hyundai, Kia and even Smart dealers rolling off the lots with hand crank windows? And no, it isn't because we are Americans and could use the upper body exercise.
If you are running a production line manufacturing an inexpensive car dont you think you would actually save money by only having one door panel design and parts to work with? Small, economical cars like the Toyota Yaris and Chevy Aveo have optional power windows (that don't cost all that much even on the options list so imagine how cheap the mechanicals are for the manufacturer) yet they continue to stamp out two different door styles with two different sets of powered and unpowered window mechanicals. That is inefficient and not cost effective. There is no way anyone with half an understanding of business or manufacturing practices could argue around that.
Why do automakers do this? Is it just a cruel corporate game to make you remember how poor you are every time you get in your car and it is going to take a minute and a half to raise or lower your window? No, but it is a way to penalize you enough to make you want to buy one of their bigger and more expensive products.
They lure you in with the $10,000 crank window Hyundai Accent and then try to send you out the door with a $15,000 power windowed Hyundai Elantra. (I am only using these as sample names and am not implying Hyundai Motor Company or any of its affiliate dealers partakes in this practice.)
Crank windows are not only tacky but they are also a safety hazard and traffic hazard. Imagine how many precious seconds are wasted at toll booths as drivers fumble with the crank window all the while looking for the change to throw in the bucket?
And what if, on a dark night, some stranger puts his hand in your mothers car and tries to grab her and all she has are crank windows? She more than likely wont be able to close them on an attacker. And all for the sake of saving a few bucks?
At first I just found it obnoxious that automakers continued to offer crank windows to customers as if there was a demand for them. But there is just no need to put peoples safety in jeopardy by continuing to use crank windows on inexpensive automobiles. Cars like the Mini and VW Golf have proven people like small cars with luxury features but it is time to take power windows out of that category.
It is time to make power windows standard on all cars because there is absolutely no reason not to. (And yes, power window mechanicals are usually robust enough to survive if your car makes a water landing into a lake and you have to get out underwater. Many times the water pressure against the glass makes the crank windows too hard for weaker people to push down.)
And make them the one touch automatic power windows too. Those are so handy at restaurant drive-thrus.