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Do Americans Hate Manual Transmissions?

It feels like the manual transmission is dying. Decades ago, automatics became the latest and greatest thing with the introduction of the first fully-automatic transmission, and whoever said it would be the death of the manual transmission wasn’t wrong. Car enthusiasts know all too well that there is just something personal about shifting gears, kicking the clutches, and feeling that special connection with your car, but it seems like that is being more and more overlooked. Perhaps we just use cars for different things now, but it definitely feels like Americans hate the manual transmission.

First, they took our favorite manual sports car

Nothing is more American than an American muscle car and the history and heritage behind them. The Chevrolet Corvette, for example, is a true icon in American muscle car culture. Until recently, it gave us something that is near and dear to drivers: a manual transmission. Even newer generations of the Corvette were available with a manual transmission option until the release of the new mid-engine Corvette C8. Many people may love the newest generation of Corvette, but as Chevrolet lets the stick shift die in one of their most iconic American cars, we can’t help but feel a little letdown.

close up of shift and handbrake of 2021 Ford Bronco
2021 Ford Bronco manual transmission | Ford

Sure, automatic cars are easier to drive

Automatic cars are easier to drive for many people. Perhaps it is because manual transmission cars have become few and far between, and a shrinking percentage of Americans even know how to drive a stick shift, let alone drive it confidently and without stress. Perhaps we have started to idolize the idea of cars that drive themselves completely and settled on automatic cars in the meantime. It could be that drivers see their cars as methods to get from A to B without needing that true driving experience.

A cut-away 1959 Smiths automatic car transmission
A 1959 automatic car transmission made by Smiths | SSPL/Getty Images

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The easy way out

Obviously, it isn’t all Americans that hate manual transmission cars, whether they be SUVs or sports cars. There is still enough demand that plenty of manufacturers, like Mazda with the MX-5, continue to produce stick shifts in plentiful numbers. If you did a survey walking down the street, however, you would find that the average American prefers an automatic transmission.

We can’t fault them for that either. Driving with kids, weaving in traffic, or even just making your morning commute before your first cup of coffee has set in are all made easier with the help of an automatic transmission.

A driver manipulates the manual transmission.
Driving stick shift | Motortion/Getty Images

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While we can’t say that Americans necessarily hate that manual transmission, the great majority isn’t particularly fond of it. Perhaps driving with an extra pedal is just an art lost to most, or many people have just accepted that their cars can shift faster and more efficiently than they have. Whatever the reasons, we hope there are enough enthusiasts out there to keep the manual transmission in production for at least some cars for years to come.