Bump in sales of stick shifts staves off their inevitable doom

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Stick Shift

Sales of stick shifts have gotten a bump recently, though it may only be staving off the inevitable. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A significant bump has been noted in the sales of cars with stick shifts, as manual transmissions are known for slightly better fuel economy than their automatic counterparts. Despite the recent gains, it is only as matter of time before the third pedal is done away with completely.

Economy spurs spike in stick shift sales

The manual transmission is rapidly disappearing. Outside of a few sports cars, hardly anyone buys cars equipped with a third pedal and a continually diminishing number of people know how to use one.

However, one of the attractive things to some people is the better fuel economy that some manual transmissions enjoy over automatic transmissions, at least in some models, and since fuel efficiency is at an all-time premium, a spike has been recorded in the sales of cars with stick shifts, according to AutoGuide. Nearly 7 percent of new cars were sold with a third pedal so far this year, compared to 3 percent last year.

Though part of it might be the attraction of models with greater fuel economy, AutoGuide suggests low-cost sports cars like the Hyundai Genesis and Scion FR-S are helping to shift a few of them.

Fewer models even have them

According to Time magazine, Environmental Protection Agency data shows that manual sales had fallen from 29.1 percent of new cars sold in 1987 to just 3.8 percent of new cars sold in 2010. As fewer people bought cars with stick shifts, fewer automakers bothered to make them, as 64 percent of new cars for this year can’t be bought with a third pedal, according to AutoGuide, compared to 45 percent in 2002.

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Baby boomers are also thought to be part of the current spike in sales of cars with manual transmissions, as that generation was equally used to the stick shift as the automatic. It isn’t so much the case anymore; according to Edmunds, few young drivers are learning how to drive a manual, because there just aren’t as many cars that have one.

Mileage gap rapidly closing

For many years, manuals offered better fuel economy than automatics. The primary reason has been the number of gears; most automatics used to have only four gears, compared to five in a stick shift. However, that isn’t the case as much anymore and the fuel economy gap is rapidly closing. It partially depends on which car maker’s transmission it is, though. An Edmunds round-up of 40 mile-per-gallon cars observed better mileage in a Mazda3 with an automatic than a Hyundai Veloster with a manual.

Other transmission forms are becoming more prevalent. Aside from dual-clutch semi-automatics, where the driver manually shifts without a manually-operated clutch via the shift lever or wheel-mounted paddle shifters, there are also continuously-variable transmissions. According to AutoBlog, CVTs went from being installed in 1 percent of new cars in 2005 to 7 percent this year. By 2016, it’s estimated they will be available in 16 percent of new cars.

Sources

AutoGuide

Time

Edmunds

AutoBlog: http://www.autoblog.com/2012/07/30/cvts-expected-to-more-than-double-in-popularity/


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