Report: Manual Transmissions Regaining Popularity in New Cars

You know the old truism that American drivers hate manual transmissions and only ever buy automatics? Well, turns out that's not necessarily true anymore. An analysis in USA Today reveals that the proportion of new cars sold with manual transmissions in the first quarter of this year was at its highest level since 2006.

While the first-quarter take rate of 6.5 percent doesn't sound like a serious victory for manual transmissions, it is reportedly the highest rate in six years. Back then, Americans chose stick shifts on 7.2 percent of new vehicles. In 2011, 2010, and 2008 the rate was below four percent; in 2007 and 2009, 2.9 percent and 4.4 percent of new cars in America, respectively, were sold with clutch pedals and manual shifters. The rate was as high as 8.5 percent back in 2002 and fell to 8.2 percent in 2003.

Even though more people are purchasing them, the availability of cars with manual transmissions seems to be dwindling. Just 19 percent of all new cars on offer in America can be equipped with a manual transmission, down from 29 percent of all new models in 2006. Exotic car manufacturer Ferrari no longer sells any cars with manual transmissions. One reason: many modern automatic and dual-clutch transmissions return higher EPA fuel economy numbers than their manual equivalents.

Customers, however, are becoming more interested in cars with manuals: Ford announced in February that it would make a six-speed manual transmission available on the top-spec Focus Titanium, in response to strong public demand. The Focus Titanium was previously available only with a dual-clutch transmission. In fact, the Focus is beating the industry average and has a ten-percent take rate for manual transmissions. Similarly, Dodge expects that about 20 percent of 2013 Dart sales will be for cars with manual transmissions.

We obviously are happy to see more manual transmissions on sale and being purchased by customers, as shifting gears manually can provide more driving engagement and fun. What do you think? Do you prefer driving a manual transmission, or is ease of an automatic transmission more appealing?

Source: USA Today

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