The State of the Manual Transmission in 2020 and Beyond

Ode To The Manual Transmission - TBK GARAGE

In our ongoing quest to save the manuals, we crunched the numbers to check on the current state of the stick shift, and proselytize a little, too.

From: Car and Driver Aug 2020

The manual transmission is dying, but for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day . . . No, that won’t do. What we need to save them is a revival, where people like you and me show the world the goodness and demand they remain (or are resurrected) in the cars we love.

When Porsche rolled out an automatic-only 911 GT3 for 2014, customers recoiled, causing the brand to bring back the manual. More of that, friends. It’s not as hopeless as it might seem. While the manual probably won’t return to mass-market cars, trucks, and SUVs, a handful of performance cars have launched that pair exclusively with a stick shift. Spot a manual-only car like the Subaru STI S209, Honda Civic Type R, or Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 and you’ll know the driver is a member of the faith.

We can’t claim that the manual transmission will beat the best automatic on a racetrack, but there’s bliss in executing a perfect upshift or heel-toe downshift. It’s fun to hone a skill, to feel a gearbox snick into gear in your palm as the tach needle kisses redline. Entertainment breeds enthusiasm, enthusiasm brings converts, and an automatic—no matter how great it is on a spreadsheet—can’t deliver that kind of joy.

And so with that in mind, our look at the state of the manual in the year 2020.

The Shifting Market

Buyer’s Choice

Manual transmissions weren’t always an enthusiast niche. Our analysis of a few vehicle segments shows how stick-shift choices have dramatically dwindled, particularly within the past decade.

buyer's choice

Not Dead Yet

Drivers who require a third pedal still have some options. For the 2020 model year, buyers can choose from more than 80 different vehicles that offer a manual transmission.

not dead yet

Stalled Out

The take rate for vehicles equipped with manuals has tanked in the past six years, giving up five points of already meager market share between 2014 and 2019.

stalled out

Peddling the Pedals

If you aren’t yet convinced of the manual transmission’s superiority, perhaps a financial argument will win you over. When it comes to 20th-century performance cars, manual-equipped examples generally retain more of their value than automatic ones [see below]. Plus, a five- or six-speed stick of that era easily outperforms its three- or four-speed slushbox alternative, and it’s a joy to wield.

When it comes to the sports cars of the 2000s, many were sold with fast-shifting but frustratingly jerky and dimwitted single-clutch automated manuals. If a car came with a choice between an automated manual and an actual one, you’ll usually find that the latter now costs more than the former on the used-car market.

We didn’t see an appreciable difference in C7 Corvette prices based on transmission, but we suspect that’s due in part to the relatively high volume of three-pedal C7s that Chevy made and because the eight-speed automatic on 2015-and-later models is excellent. —Tony Quiroga

peddling the pedals