Monday, October 20, 2014

Editorial: Are Manuals Really Dead?

Image courtesy of Fanpop
"The manual transmission is dead." That is what everyone keeps saying, and they certainly have good reason. People used to buy manual transmissions because they offered an advantage in fuel economy and vehicular control. With the advancement in automatic transmissions though, including CVTs and DCTs, those advantages no longer exist. The argument now is, "why have three pedals and row your own gears when the car can do it for you? You want control over your own gears? Just slap it into 'sport' mode and change gears yourself with paddles!"

Yes, manual transmission take rate has been steadily falling every year. In the last few years, that percentage has been somewhere in the low teens. Sure, there are certain "enthusiast" models that only come with a manual transmission, such as the Honda Civic Si, the Subaru WRX STi, and the Ford Focus ST and Fiesta ST. Purchase rates for these types of vehicles is not exactly low, but they simply cannot hold a candle to their more pedestrian, automatic equipped cousins in terms of sales numbers. With manufacturers like Porsche, who used to exclusively build their vehicles with manual transmissions, now offering less and less manual choices, it would seem the final nail in the coffin for manual transmissions is coming sooner and sooner.

Image courtesy of Motor Trend
Despite the grim outlook for manual transmissions, there has been encouraging news in the last few months, keeping the Grim Reaper and his bony mitts off our manual gearboxes. The new C7 Corvette has a 35% manual take rate. This may seem low compared to the automatic version, but it is still much higher than other cars in the same class. For more encouraging news, we look at the recently introduced Dodge Challenger Hellcat, with its glorious 707bhp supercharged V8. The Hellcat is offered with both a six-speed manual and an eight-speed automatic. Reports have come in showing that the six-speed manual is outselling the automatic by a ratio of 55 to 45. Finally, rumor also has it that BMW will be introducing the new M2 coupe with only a manual transmission. For enthusiasts, this is big news as it has been an incredibly long time since BMW has introduced an enthusiast model that comes with only a manual transmission.

Image courtesy of Motor Trend
The impending death of the manual transmission has been a topic that has, admittedly, been beaten to death. However, with news coming from the automotive world that manufacturers are actually starting to pay attention to us three-pedal guys again, it could very well mean manuals still have a good few decades left. Does it mean the next generation will have manual transmissions to drive? Only time will tell. What I can be sure of though, is that when I have kids, you can be damn sure I will teach them to drive in a manual, even if it kills me.

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