The Manual Transmission Is Dying; You Won’t Like Why
New cars with manual transmissions are slowly going the way of the buffalo. Sure, there are still some around in rich people’s garages or out in the country somewhere, but most folks aren’t used to seeing them at this point. Also like the buffalo, the history of the manual transmission shaped our country in many ways. However, unlike the mighty buffalo, the reason that the third pedal is dying isn’t some grand conspiracy, and we definitely didn’t hunt the manual transmission out of existence; no, it’s something more mundane and at least equally sad. We simply outgrew the manual transmission. I told you you wouldn’t like it.
What new cars still have manual transmissions in 2023?
While there aren’t many new cars with manual transmissions left, that doesn’t mean the manual is gone gone. Some enthusiast sports cars, SUVs, and even trucks still come with a manual box. Some of the most prominent manual cars left are the Mazda MX-5, BMW M2, M3, M4, Acura Integra, Dodge Challenger, Dodge Charger, the Blackwing Cadillacs, Ford Mustang, Honda Civic, Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Gladiator, and Toyota Tacoma. While there are a few more manual cars left, there aren’t many.
Frankly, there are a decent number of manual options out there. The problem is many of these will likely disappear over the coming years. The worst part about the next wave of dead manuals is all the extra stuff has already been cut. The next phase will start killing some classic manual cars, like Mini Coopers, Jeep Wranglers, and MX-5s. These cars are three-pedal royalty.
Car nerds like manual transmissions. If you like driving, you want to control as much of the car as possible. When the gears change is maybe second only to the steering wheel for the mechanism that controls the car’s performance the most. The three cars I mentioned in the previous paragraph are perfect examples of this. There isn’t anything practical about the Wrangler or Miata. These are toy cars. As such, we want toy cars to be fun.
Why are manual cars disappearing?
OK. Now that we covered why we love manuals, we have to talk about the elephant in the room. Manuals are disappearing for a couple of reasons. The reasons are irritatingly simple and practical. For the longest time, manual cars were faster, cooler, and more practical. Automatic transmissions were an inefficient luxury feature. These days, nearly the opposite is true.
Automatic transmissions are better than manual transmissions
Before y’all burn the internet down with comments about how stupid I am, the fact is, automatic transmissions have gotten better – a lot better. The best dual-clutch automatic transmissions in the game can shift faster and more accurately than anyone can with a manual transmission. I don’t love it, but it’s true. The fastest cars in the world use automatic transmissions.
Traditionally, the quickest cars were manuals. However, somewhere along the way, the automatic became faster and more efficient. To make matters worse for gear heads, one of the least exciting transmission options, the CVT, is technically the fastest and most efficient, according to How Stuff Works. This will undoubtedly strike some readers as an affront to your worldview. I get it. However, the proof is in the pudding. Consider this: If manual transmissions were the fastest, most efficient transmissions, wouldn’t car makers like Ferrari, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and McLaren use them in their fastest cars?
No one buys cars with manual transmissions
While some individual people surely still buy cars with manual transmissions, there are barely enough of them to make up 2% of new car purchases. As we mentioned earlier, there are manual cars to buy, but we don’t buy them.
We can pound our chests and fuss about “no one making manual cars” (no judgment. I, too, do this at times), but the reality is we are only upset that our childhood dream cars are disappearing. The world is changing, and our cars are changing with it. Above all else, the car world is a business. You can rest assured if car companies believed they would sell more cars if they put the third back, they’d do it.
Again, look at the Porsche 911 or the Jeep Wrangler. The manual is still a popular option, so the companies keep it. Gear Patrol reported the Jeep Wrangler manual sales percentage is about 10%. For comparison, that’s about the same as those who still go for the two-door. Something tells me that Vindiagram is a perfect circle.
Electric cars don’t have transmissions at all
For the most part, electric cars use one long gear. Given the on-tap peak torque, shifting gears doesn’t have any relevance. This affects the rest of the market because the industry as a whole is moving toward a more electric future. As more states pass emissions regulations, the more EVs we see. R&D for all-new electric cars is pricey and time-consuming. This means automakers have to spend more time and money to perfect those cars, which takes away from the time spent on our gas-powered cars.
That said, some automakers are working on simulated manual transmissions for EVs. However, I think we can all agree digitally simulating something meant to be manual is probably not the way.
Can a hybrid car have a manual transmission?
Honda used to make some hybrid cars with a stick shift. However, these days, hybrids have grown far too complicated for this to make any sense. The CVT is most common among hybrids now for its efficiency.
Manual cars will die
The fact is, everything in our world is moving away from analog and manual anything. Cars happen to be one of the leading products for this automation. How can we envision a future with three pedals if all the car makers and tech companies are planning cars with no pedals? It is clear. The manual transmission’s days are numbered. We don’t have to like it, God knows I don’t, but it is what it is and we will have to accept it when the day comes.