High Dollar automatics are faster than manuals and just as efficient. However, if your dad isn't talking about $75,000 transmissions, he's confused. The WRX, for example, is quite a bit faster with a manual than an auto and so are many similar cars. In the luxury market, we are just now seeing automatics released that are superior to manuals. BMW for example. Those ain't cheap though either nor can they handle high HP numbers. A 10,000hp drag car is not going to run a standard 5-speed, it's true. Course, the tranny they use is so different than the one you'd find in a 4-door passenger car it's not even funny.
Manuals are less complex which allows them to handle more power cheaply. They're easier to fix and offer many advantages over your average automatic in terms of power losses, gas miledge, overall cost of ownership, etc.
04 STi 16G powered lagless fun
04 WRX: SOLD