Midsize car-makers throwing out the manual

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stick shift

The iconic stick shift may soon be a thing of the past. Image: jtjdt/Flickr/CC BY-SA

According to some auto industry analysts, the stick shift will soon be going out of style; at least in mid-size sedans. Fewer and fewer automakers are offering the option, according to Cars.com. Others disagree, though.

The stick gets the shaft

Until recently, most car makers offered a manual transmission option in mid-size cars as a lower-priced option for consumers. Then, by advertising the stick-shift model, automakers were able to post the generally superior fuel-economy numbers in commercials. Because of the wide consumer appeal of mid-sized cars, the manual shift option has stuck around much longer than in other automotive segments. But nothing stays the same forever.

Cars.com com says there are only six mid-size sedans available now in the U.S. that offer a stick-shift option. That is less than half of the 13 mid-size models currently available on the market.

Sonata and Fusion

The latest model to eschew the stick-shift option, according to Cars.com, is the 2013 Hyundai Sonata. In so doing, it has lost 1 mpg off its fuel rating, and upped its base price by $1,100.

According to Hyundai’s product public relations manager, Miles Johnson, the automaker sold nearly 226,000 Sonatas last year. Of those, only 1,725 moved with manual transmissions.

The Ford Fusion will lose the hand-shift option for its base 2013 model, although a fuel-efficient 1.6-liter four-cylinder variation will still offer a manual tranny, says Ford.

The rise of the automatic

Improved technology has made the automatic transmission more efficient and, in some case, less fuel-guzzling than in cars with a hand-shifted tranny. One example of this, according to Cars.com, is the 2012 Subaru Legacy. It gets 22 miles to the gallon with a manual-shifter. The automatic variation, however, gets 26 mpg.

Fewer buyers

Perhaps the largest reason fewer manual transmissions are offered is that fewer American consumers are buying cars with them, in spite of the fact that they generally are about $1,000 cheaper than they are with automatic transmissions. The automatic transmission seems to have increasing appeal as consumers become more tech-savvy and less mechanically inclined.

Or are there?

According to the Detroit Free Press, about 8.5 percent of new cars were sold with stick shifts a decade ago. Today, that figure has shrunk to about 4 percent.

[Grab that stick shift while you still can. Buy old cars here.]

Incongruously, a CBS report last week spotlights a rising interest in manual-shifting vehicles. It cites Edmunds.com, which said that 6.5 percent of all new car sales in 2012 have been cars with stick shifts. According to the car pricing site, that is the highest such rate in six years.


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