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Manual Transmission Popularity

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Manual transmission are becoming more popular in the united states after years of seeing their market take-rate fall. At the lowest point in 2007, only 2.9% of new vehicles were sold with a manual transmission. In 2012, 6.5% of vehicles were sold with manual transmissions; that’s almost double the percentage sold in 2011, 3.8%. Manual transmissions have traditionally achieved higher gas mileage than automatics, but modern automatic transmissions are better programmed and have more gears that allow them to save fuel. Automatic transmissions are also usually more expensive. A base model Ford Focus, for example costs $16,810 with a manual, but the price increases to $17,905 if you want the car with an automatic.

As the consumer demand for manuals fell, automakers began to offer fewer model that featured them, but now that demand is rebounding manuals are being added back to models that were not originally going to offer them. Ford, after selling almost 10% of the aforementioned Focus with manual transmissions, is putting a manual option on the higher end Titanium Version of the Focus. Kia also added a manual to its Rio SX after previously announcing that it wouldn’t have the option.

Although manuals offer more control to the driver and are more fun for driving enthusiast, fewer consumers are learning how to drive them which will likely lead to a further decrease in their popularity despite this momentary blip in take-rates. In 2012, only 19% of new models were offered with manuals: in 2007 that figure was 29%.

Source: USA Today April 2012 “stick shift manual and Auto Trader


  1. Louisa Ortiz
    Louisa Ortiz

    It might be that this “momentary blip” may lead to an actual steady incline in popularity. I feel like the more people I know that has a manual, the higher the chance that I would learn to drive one and buy one for myself.

    May 16, 2014
  2. heardd16

    I was thinking the same thing as Lucy. Perhaps this increase will perpetuate production of manual transmission vehicles, as more people learn to drive them and then are capable of using them. With more people capable of usage, this may lead to further demand for these cars since they are fun and cheap.

    May 16, 2014
  3. reed

    That’s a good point. I didn’t think of it that way. I wouldn’t put my money one it, but it’s certainly a possibility. I wish more people drove manuals, but the learning curve is so much steeper that I’m betting most people would rather pay than have to figure it out.

    May 16, 2014
  4. Kuangdi Zhao
    Kuangdi Zhao

    Porsche began to offer 7-speeds manual transmission in its new 911 model. Cars with manual transmission are more fun to drive with. So sports cars such as 911 have never stopped offering the manual transmission option for consumers.

    May 16, 2014
  5. With “world” cars all manufacturers turn out manuals, offering one in the US where it is a niche market is not the high-cost engineering proposition that it was when models were US-only. So one component of the rise is simply that more are available for the odd person (such as your prof) who recently bought one.
    Now what is the critical mass? You never see a stick when you rent from Enterprise or Hertz, so unless you can get a friend to teach you to drive a stick, you won’t have an opportunity to even try. Nor a need. Now I learned in high school, and the first few cars I owned were manuals, but I had to teach my wife to drive a stick, a very traumatic undertaking.

    May 19, 2014
  6. Michael Barry
    Michael Barry

    I think that the increased demand might just be because a manual has started to seem unique and exciting. If sales continue to increase, I think the novelty will begin to wear off and people will want to go back to the ease of an automatic.

    May 22, 2014

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