Useful Car Tips

The Future of the Manual Transmission

October 26, 2018

Does your car have 2 pedals or 3?

Telling an automatic from a manual transmission car is as easy as counting the pedals below the steering wheel and/or noting the shifter positioning. Automatics have the typical “PRNDL” column, while manual shifters move along a common horizontal line called “neutral.” Along with these different set-ups comes two separate driving forms. When the first automobile rolled across this Earth, transmissions were manually shifted. These days, it seems automatic shifting has finally won the battle, although it is a small victory when you consider the prevalence of electric cars who employ no transmission whatsoever. But in a time when all 3 types co-exist, will there ever be a point when the manual dies out completely?

Automatic vs. Manual

Driving an automatic or a manual car might say something about your personality in some folks’ eyes, but really it boils down to what the manufacturer offers on that particular model. It’s nearly an unspoken standard that manuals are best paired with sports cars and anything meant for the auto enthusiast. However, any avid automotive gear-head will grudgingly admit that in the game of shifting, a computer will almost always beat out human muscle reaction. Looking at it from the manufacturer’s point of view, costs are at the forefront. It takes a lot more money to develop 2 types of transmissions and when most customers will opt for the automatic anyway, many say, “What’s the point?” In fact, automatics trump manuals even when it comes to fuel efficiency. You might think you’re saving more gas by choosing the shifts yourself but sit through one bout of traffic and it becomes clear that perhaps letting the computer take over might be a wise choice. The one interesting point that brings up concerns multitasking in the car. When operating a manual, both hands and both feet are kept busy. Automatics, on the other hand, allow us to talk while driving, eat, drink—whatever we can think of!

Stick Shifting Then and Now

According to, 1 out of every 4 purchases in 1992 was a manual. Only 20 years after that, “only 7 percent of buyers opted for the manual back then.” Europe has always been a haven for manual transmissions. However, considering the advances in technology and the deluge of driver assistance features springing onto the market, driving a car yourself seems to be the opposite direction of the current industry trends. USA Today reports that this year, only 3.5% of sales included the manual transmission option. Audi stated it will no longer manufacture standard-transmission models beginning with next year’s fresh batch that has already hit dealership lots. Super sellers like the “Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited” include a manual transmission option, but something tells us even Honda, Ford, and Chevy may follow Audi in shutting down the (un)standard transmission.

What Will Become of the Manual Transmission?

While the end of the manual transmission may be near, it hasn’t quite left the automotive field yet. There aren’t many indications that the manual will survive once electric and/or self-driving cars become the norm, even with Toyota patenting technology last seen on a 1960s Saab. The death of the manual transmission may very well signal the horizon of the transition from self-driven to driverless automobiles.
Previous Article Next Article