We car enthusiast, clench to the manual transmission as lunatic women clench to the 70% discounted Blu-Ray DVDs on black friday, ready to brake the neck of anyone who even dares look at the apparatus. The manual transmission has become one of things we hold dear to our hearts, not because it is technically superior, but because for us it’s just right. It’s as if you had the choice between using an app to make it sound as if someone just farted or using a true Woopie Cushion. The app may produce a clearer sound, a louder racket, have an array of styles of farts, but in the end the simplistic and charismatic woopie cushion will always bring the happiest smiles. Thats how I see the manual transmission, and I know a lot of you do as well. Not as something technically superior to the automatic, but something that brings satisfaction and emotion to each of us within. That is also why year after year the fright of seeing it go increases as well as hope in people to keep buying them. But don’t worry, because the manual transmission isn’t going just yet nor in a good amount of time.
First, we have to see the reason why people dislike the manual transmission, and why the automatic received so much popularity. For me, its 2 things: Convenience (Laziness) and reluctance of people to learn (Laziness). Yes, I know that an automatic is way more comfortable when there is traffic, and I know it is easier to park a car when you only have to deal with 2 pedals, or you may suffer from a medical difficulty that forbids you from driving stick. All of these are facts that made people transition to automatics, but they are also the reason why manuals have been improving (And will keep improving). Automakers have always tried to manufacture a lighter clutch, and a more effortless gear change as years go by. They have always kept trying to make driving stick in those situations easier for the driver. If they would have kept the granite clutches of old, and the ungodly rigid gear changes then people would have really walked away from the manual transmission. But, as the automatics, the manufacturers are seeing ways of making your life less of a chore while driving a manual. Therefore, they are still trying to make it enjoyable to consumers and keeping it alive.
As well as a more enjoyable operation, manual transmissions have also been part of most of the innovations that automatics get. I realised this in my Golf. Innovations to make you save fuel, and make driving less complicated are still being implanted in the manual transmission even though they harder to execute than in automatics.
Radar Guided or Adaptive Cruise control? The Doge Challenger Hellcat with a manual has it. And yes, it is harder to design how a cruise control will function without the ability to change gears by itself.
Start/Stop System? It looks very simple in an automatic car. Your foot on the brake puts it on, and lifting said foot will turn it off. But in a manual as it is in my Golf? You have to put it in neutral, the clutch has to be depressed, can’t do it in a hill, and if the car starts creeping above 2mph it starts.
What about fuel economy? The Corvette has the gear lockout feature (which is annoying). Cars such as the Honda fit are being added a sixth gear, and gear ratios are being designed so that manuals still offer competitive fuel economy to the automatic alternative.
Park Assist? Automatics and manuals have them. I have it in my car, and although it is a bit more complicated, they went to the effort of actually making it available.
Sport mode/Button? In an automatic it increases gear “ferocity”, and although it doesn’t affect the manual gear changes, they do make other aspects of the car customisable for the driver.
Launch Control? Manuals have them, starting from one of the first in the Cobalt SS to the very advanced system in a new manual BMW M3.
Rev/Match? This only the Nissan 370Z I’m aware has it, but it is another innovation that makes it more enjoyable for the user and proof that engineers are still trying.
Ease of Use? Clutches are getting lighter then ever, gear changes as effortless as they can be.
Cost? Most manual transmissions are the base models, so they are more reasonable compared to the automatic counterparts if you are in a tight budget. But, what we also love, is the availability of a very well equipped car with a manual. And, I’m not only talking about the Germans, the Fiesta offers its Titanium with manual, Chevy offers the Spark LTZ with a manual, as well as pretty much any Volkswagen.
And, the most important thing of all? Demand. Demand is what makes things either arrive or leave, and although the demand for a manual transmission in the US is as scarce as albino crocodiles a lot of other places around the world still want them. See every Latin American Taxi or civilian car, it comes with a manual. See the availability of the manual transmission in cars sold in the UK or Spain or Germany, pretty much every model can be equipped with it. A lot of markets embrace the manual transmission so much that car makers can’t just cancel it. And, even if it is only 7% of buyers in the U.S. the number will (Slowly) keep climbing.
The manual transmission hasn’t been left by as an after thought. It has been constantly improved, constantly engineered around it, and constantly innovating itself for the buyer. Automakers still give a damn about it, and still are willing to sell their products with them because a lot of people still want them. And, although numbers are low, they have been increasing as more cars come available with it. The ST brothers, the FR-S/BRZ brothers, the Miata, the Luxury sedans, the odd sports cars such as the M6 or the Aston Martin Vantage, the Porsches, The base Pickup trucks, some Crossovers, every one of them keep the manual transmission alive and us enthusiasts happy. So don’t worry, because as they keep revamping the good old woopie cushion, they will keep it in existence for time to come. Long live the manual!