Some die-hard drivers say you aren’t really driving a car unless you are in a stick shift.
But the manual transmission is dying out.
Just 41 out of the 327 new car models sold in the United States in 2020, or 13%, are offered with a manual transmission, according to data from Edmunds. That is a tremendous drop from less than a decade ago. In 2011, 37% percent came with manuals.
Carmakers say the demand for manual transmissions has fallen off a cliff, adding that there may come a day when very few, if any, cars even offer a stick shift.
Throughout much of automotive history, manual transmissions came standard in most cars. Automatics were a luxury feature, designed to relieve drivers of the skill and attention needed to shift gears. They can make it easier to drive a car on hilly terrain and in traffic.
But automatics were also derided for their inability to shift as precisely as a good old stick shift.
Now automatics have become far more precise, and carmakers have also developed systems that can shift to a manual transmission if the driver chooses.
Still, some drivers say they still prefer the sense of control and connection to a car they say can only be felt with a stick shift.
Manuals are still found on less expensive cars — the transmissions themselves are cheap to build and easy to fix. There are also some performance car brands that stock at least some of their cars with manuals to please the purists. There are a few such cars that only come with a manual transmission, such as the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350.
Manuals will probably not disappear completely from the market entirely in the near future. But every year, it seems another holdout gives way. The Nissan Frontier was one of the few pickup trucks that offered a manual, along with trucks such as the Jeep Gladiator and Toyota Tacoma. But in 2020, Nissan said it will be dropping the stick shift from the truck.
Electric cars, which have no engines, require no multi-gear transmission at all. Tesla cars, for example, are single-speed. Electrics are a tiny portion of the market, but if they do take off, the very idea of a transmission may become a thing of the past.