We keep watching the hand wringing of automotive enthusiasts (of which we are a member) about the manual transmission fading from the American vehicle fleet. In fact, in 2010 our friends at Car and Driver created a Facebook page entitled “Save the Manuals” moaning about the “paucity” of manual transmissions offered in new vehicles. The latest issue of Car and Driver continues to advertise the site. At a recent new model introduction, a wizened old auto journalist railed on about how the car maker was killing the manual transmission. They were not offering one on the higher priced models of the car. Well, as experienced as he may be, he is out of touch.
Over the years, we have been proponents of automatics especially since they have become so efficient. Based on AutoPacific research we have the data. Here are the tidbits from the latest year’s survey (the data have changed only slightly year over year):
81% of New Vehicle Acquirers Can Drive a Vehicle With a Manual Transmission Frankly, we thought this number would be much smaller. For the sake of their ego maybe these respondents claim they can drive a manual when they actually cannot or do so very poorly. About 89% of men and 68% of women claim they can drive a vehicle with a manual transmission. By age group, 52% of respondents in their 20s and 71% of those in their 30s say they can drive a vehicle with a manual transmission. Over 40 years of age, over 85% say they can drive a manual. We are surprised that so many in their 20s and 30s claim they can drive a manual.
94% Want an Automatic in Their Next Vehicle 81% of the respondents say they want an automatic transmission in their next vehicle. About 14% say they want an automatic with paddle shifters. Only 5% want a manual transmission.
Highest Preference for Manual Transmissions are in Sports and Compact Cars About 20% of sporty car (Camaro/Mustang) owners want a manual in their next vehicle. About 13% of sports car owners (Porsche 911, Corvette) want a manual transmission. About 11% of compact car owners want a manual transmission. The sports and sporty car owners want a manual because they perceive the manual gives them a more sporty driving experience and better control over the car. Compact car owners perceive that a manual will give them better fuel economy and also a lower price. We might have thought pickup truck owners would want a manual transmission but this is not the case. Only 5% of pickup owners want a manual transmission in their next vehicle.
Manuals to Fade Away In many press events AutoPacific attends, members of the automotive press continue to argue for more manual transmissions to be added to newly introduced vehicles. This is contrary to what the people who actually buy cars want. While there will be some bitching and moaning from the media, automakers should save their resources and concentrate on making outstanding automatics and dropping manuals in the future.
Sidenote on Paddle Shifters Manufacturers have been adding paddle shifters to automatics to give a sportier ambiance. In AutoPacific research over the years, we have found that drivers might use this feature for the first couple of weeks they have their vehicle. Then they never use paddle shifters again. While implementing paddle shifters is now an inexpensive proposition, it still might not be worth the trip.