It’s Time to Say Goodbye: Death of the Manual Transmission

Depending on how old you are, the death of the manual transmission likely means something different to you. For older generations, drivers grew up on the manual transmission, learning how to properly shift gears while their parents taught them to drive.

For younger generations, this may not be on your radar at all. You may have had a friend or two who drove stick shift during college, and they were considered a rare and cool breed of driver.

According to car experts and trends, less and less cars will have the option of a manual transmission until they are extinct altogether. In fact, many believe that by the end of this decade, manual transmissions will be completely dead.

In the United States, gas-powered vehicles have been moving away from clutches for years. In 2006, 47 percent of new models offered in the U.S. were available with both automatic and manual transmissions. By 2011, that number had dropped to 37 percent. By 2016, the number had fallen to 27 percent.

One cause car experts are pointing to is the increased sales in the SUV market, where vehicles are almost exclusively automatic transmissions. 

While the death of manual transmissions in sedans was bound to happen, many car enthusiasts are angered to find that manual transmissions are disappearing in souped up sports cars, too. In fact, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo, Volvo, Lexus, Chrysler, and Buick no longer offer a single model with manual transmission. Audi, Jaguar, Cadillac, and GMC offer only one.

“It’s a disgrace. Yes, it’s more troublesome and expensive for the automakers. But it’s completely inexcusable that Ferrari doesn’t even offer a manual transmission,” Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer said.

While the lack of manual transmissions may be frustrating for those looking for a car equipped with a stick shift and clutch pedal, the car sales don’t reflect a great desire for those vehicles. According to Edmunds senior analyst Ivan Drury, fewer than three percent of current U.S. car sales are manual vehicles—compared with 80 percent in some European and Asian countries, and down in the U.S. from seven percent in 2012 and 25 percent in 1992.

Manual transmissions are most popular for their lower up-front cost (nearly $1,000 cheaper), better fuel economy, generally greater durability, and greater driving involvement for enthusiasts.

True manual lovers are not alone, and can do their part to help change the tides of the auto industry. Car and Driver magazine has stated a campaign and developed its own Twitter hashtag to #SavetheManuals. While it has yet to gain any real traction among drivers or automaker, they’re hoping it gains momentum before it’s too late.

So if you’re among those looking to #SavetheManuals, head to Twitter and other major social media platforms to make your voice heard to auto makers in the United States.

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