Is the Manual Transmission Still Relevant?. According to recent consumer behavior studies, manual-transmission vehicles may be experiencing a minor revival. According to J.D. Power, manual-transmission vehicles, commonly known as stick shifts, will account for 1.7% of all new-vehicle purchases in 2023, up from 1.2% in 2022 and 0.9% in 2021. According to Autotrader, there was a 13% increase in viewers looking at manual-transmission vehicles in 2023 compared to 2022.
The Wall Street Journal and Robb Report attributed the increase in stick-shift sales to younger purchasers, many of whom are members of Generation Z.
MANUALS ARE STILL ATTACHED
As of mid-2023, you can get a manual transmission in about 30 different makes and models. These range from tough SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler to stylish vehicles like the BMW M4.
In some circumstances, a manual transmission is the sole option. The Honda Civic Si and Civic Type-R are both only available with six-speed manual transmissions.
According to Acura, Honda’s luxury brand, 25% of Acura Integra buyers are between the ages of 18 and 34, implying that younger drivers may be more enthusiastic about driving a stick shift.
MIATA MX-5 AND MINI TO THE RESCUE
Manual transmissions are still available in a few low-cost tiny cars, such as the Nissan Versa, as well as sporty variants of select mainstream models. Volkswagen, for example, offers manual gearboxes on its performance-tuned Golf GTI and Golf R vehicles in the 2023 model year. Similarly, if you choose the 276-hp Elantra N, you can buy a stick-shift Hyundai Elantra for around $34,000.
Another vehicle that defies automatic transmission domination is the chirpy Mazda MX-5 Miata roadster. According to Mazda USA, consumer interest in the Miata’s six-speed manual is high, and more than 60% of all Miatas for the 2022 model year were fitted with a manual transmission. Furthermore, according to the carmaker, around 25% of Miata manual customers were between the ages of 18 and 35.
Mini recently created the Mini Manual Driving School to educate the fundamentals of driving a manual transmission. The training, held at the BMW Group Performance Center in Thermal, California, is aimed at both newbies to manual transmissions and experienced drivers wishing to improve their shifting abilities.
DO NOT CHARGE EVS
The burgeoning industry of electric vehicles isn’t benefitting drivers who like manual transmissions. EVs today feature automatic transmissions, often with a single gearbox.
Still, not everything is lost. Several automakers, including Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus, have stated that they are developing EV-compliant, multispeed gearboxes that are meant to mimic the tactile character and mechanical feel of a typical manual transmission. While they are unlikely to have a clutch pedal and will most likely feature an automatic-drive mode, they may be able to bridge the gap from one stick-shift period to the next.