What was once a rite of passage, the art of driving a stick shift, is going the way of the dinosaur as fewer Americans buy cars with manual transmissions.
Sales of manual transmissions in the U.S. have been falling for decades, and that figure now stands at less than four percent. Audi, the luxury brand of Volkswagen Group, confirmed it will no longer offer any stick shift vehicles in the U.S. beginning with the 2019 model year.
“Ford, with the Mustang, they make the manual transmissions only one week a month, and not even all week long,” says Jerry Reynolds, host of the nationally syndicated “Car Pro” radio program. “It's just tough for them to plan for supply and demand, especially for demand.”
Big city traffic is one reason for the falloff in U.S. sales.
“People who drive in a lot of traffic, it can be a whipping,” says Reynolds. “You're left leg pushing the clutch in and out constantly, it gets very, very difficult.”
Plus, you can't drink your coffee, check your email and text a friend when you're constantly pushing in the clutch and shifting gears.
Reynolds says the idea that stick shifts are more fuel efficient and cheaper than automatics no longer holds true.
“We're seeing seven, eight, ten-speed transmissions that are more fuel-efficient,” he says. “Most of them have shift paddles on the steering wheel where you can shift it if you want to without all the trouble of the manual transmission.”
He believes luxury sports cars will soon be the only stick shifts on American roads.