The “Shift” from Manual to Automatic Transmission


Could we be witnessing the death of the stick shift?

The “Shift” from Manual to Automatic Transmission

The fact is, manual transmissions once had their perks, but they just aren’t practical anymore.

In 2013, only 4% of cars sold had manual transmissions. On top of that, 67% of new models sold don’t even come with a manual option. Some popular sports car manufacturers, including Porsche, Lamborghini, Jaguar, and Ferrari, are coming out without manual transmissions.

Death of the manual transmission?

So what are the factors contributing to the decline of the stick shift?

Learning Curve

Driving stick is often perceived to be “more fun” than driving automatic, but it also requires additional skill beyond knowing the rules of the road. In essence, the car needs you to drive, and if you don’t shift and clutch properly you can do serious damage to your vehicle.

Automatic transmissions take proper shifting, acceleration, and deceleration out of the mix, lowering the involvement of the driver. As driving safely already demands a lot of attention, the proposition of taking additional stress out of the equation is attractive to many drivers.

Traffic

Since the end of the 90’s, most cities have seen an influx in population. With that number expected to grow, traffic has become more congested and intense. This traffic stems not only from additional cars, but also from pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.

Drivers need to be more vigilant and automatic transmissions allow for that. Unfortunately, with less driver involvement and increasingly more distractions, this isn’t always the case. However, that responsibility falls pretty squarely on the driver, not the transmission.

Technology and Cost

When automatic transmissions were first introduced, they couldn’t handle the gear ratios as effectively as a skilled stick driver and the technology was expensive. This led to cars with manual transmissions being less expensive and more fuel-efficient than cars with automatic transmissions.

Over the years, automatic transmission technology has improved to the point where some models get the same or better gas mileage than manual transmissions in the same model. In addition to this, new transmission technology like dual clutch or continuous variable (CVT) promise even more efficiency in perfecting gear ratios.

While this new tech has only penetrated about 10% of the market, you can expect it to be commonplace within a few years, according to the Washington Post.

No Longer a “Theft Deterrent”

Perhaps, at one point, manual transmissions were somewhat of a “theft deterrent” against criminals who broke in only to find that they couldn’t physically drive the car.

The fact is that whether you like automatic or manual transmissions, this argument is now moot. When you factor in the complex security systems in many cars on the road today, it’s reasonable to assume that any thief will have the intelligence level to have at least thought that far ahead.

Heroes Get Remembered, But Legends Never Die

Whether the stick shift will go extinct one day or not, we can’t say for sure. There will always be the select few who are adamant about driving stick-shift sport cars that will always be released with manual-only transmissions.

There is something freeing about driving on a country road, opening up the gears with the wind in your hair. That’s something everyone should enjoy at least once. As for everyday life, however, it seems that stick shifts are just not that practical anymore.