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Manual Transmissions Once Ruled the Mainstream, but They’re Swiftly Slipping to Niche Status

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Only 2 percent of cars sold this year have featured a stick shift

Stick Shift

Whether driving enthusiasts like it or not, stick shifts are becoming a thing of the past.

Per data from the automotive site, only 2 percent of all vehicles sold so far this year have been equipped with manual transmissions. It’s a trend that’s been on the rise for a while. In 2006, 47 percent of new U.S. models came with a choice of stick or automatic. This year, that number is down to 20 percent.

In today’s market, certain small cars and sports cars are just about the only vehicles available with manual transmissions. However, developments in automatic transmission technology mean that even many performance cars are being offered without a manual option.

When you look at the popular, fast-growing pickup and SUV/crossover market, the outlook is even worse for the stick shift. Other than a few models — such as the GMC Canyon and the Toyota Tacoma — most pickups today are automatic only. With the exception of the Jeep Wrangler, the same is true for SUVs and crossovers.

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2018 GMC Canyon

The GMC Canyon is one of the few pickups to still offer a manual transmission

How did it come to this? Over the years, stick-shift aficionados have cited performance, fuel economy, price, and driver engagement as good reasons to prefer a manual transmission. However, since its introduction in the 1950s, automatic transmission technology has kept getting better and better, and the advantages of stick shift have nearly disappeared.

More and more high-performance cars have changed over to high-tech automatics, and fuel efficiency isn’t guaranteed to be superior with a manual transmission anymore. Manual-transmission vehicles are still a little cheaper to produce, but even that advantage’s days may be numbered.

That leaves driver engagement. While some newer automatic transmissions have engagement-boosting features like dual-clutch and paddle shifting, some enthusiasts swear by the thrill of operating a stick shift.

However, engagement isn’t at the top of the list for mainstream drivers these days, which is why manual transmissions are rapidly heading for niche status.

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News Source: Chicago Tribune