The joy of car enthusiasts all around the world, the manual transmission, is slowly going away. Numbers say that less than three percent of vehicles sold in the U.S come with a stick and a clutch. Up until now, by “standard” transmission we thought of the manual, but now, things changed.
Manual transmissions used to be the only game in town. Even after automatics showed up in the automotive landscape, the “standard” typically offered a better sense of control as well as superior fuel economy. Edmunds says that 47 percent of all new models sold in the U.S came with both automatic and manual transmissions in 2006, but that number dropped to 37 percent in 2011 and is only 27 percent today. These days, the number of sold vehicles with three pedals is less than it was before, says Ivan Drury, Edmunds senior analyst. According to him, that number is never going to go back up.
If we take the fact that almost all vehicle sales in 1992 were shift-it-yourself, we should ask, what happened, what’s changed? Technology takes a big part in this. Even automakers have realized that there was a demand for automatics and they kept making them.
As that demand grew, the U.S. market simply shifted. The manual has been occupying a niche market in America while the public grew up needing to know how to operate a clutch. Taking an informal survey of 10 local driving schools it was found that only one offered any instruction on a driving stick. For many youngsters, knowing how to drive a manual is as if knowing how to speak Latin.
Sticks are even disappearing from sports cars. The demand for manuals fell to almost zero and Ferrari has long since switched to paddle-shift gearboxes. Moreover, many hypercars and supercars are now so powerful that a manual transmission simply could not cope.
But Porsche and Subaru have maintained their loyalty to the manuals. Porsche models that still have manual transmission are all sub-GT3, Turbo 911 models, and all 718s. A majority of Nissan 370Z, Mazda MX-5, and Fiat 124 Spider, buyers prefer to change gear themselves, as well. The demand for manuals will always exist, but with time, it will be lower and lower.