The Manual Transmission is Dead, and it’s Never Coming Back … Ever

2008 Ford F-450 Chassis Cab XLT Interior - Manual Transmission Stick Shift Home

For new cars and trucks purchased over the past 10 years, the manual transmission take rate has hovered around five percent. That take rate is only headed downward.

But then I discovered that as much as half the U.S. population cannot swim … at that point I pretty much gave up on humanity.

Imagine being a manual transmission in this day and age. Imagine how awful it would feel if only five percent of the new-vehicle-buying public wanted you. Who wants to be that unpopular? It’s a good thing manual transmissions don’t have feelings because if they did, they would cry “nobody loves me!”, and then crawl into a dark corner and die. Actually, I’m inclined to believe they do have feelings because, boy oh boy, are the manuals dying.

It’s been about four years since an F-250 or F-350 has rolled off the assembly line with a manual. For half-ton trucks it’s been a bit longer. Even though you were able to get a five-speed manual transmission in an F-150 up until 2008, you were forced to pair it with the depressing 202-hp 4.2L V6, so for all intents and purposes, rowing your own has been dead in the F-150 since 2003; the last year you could get a V8 with a stick.

Mvs4th” on the forum asked if there are plans to ever bring back manuals in the upcoming redesigned F-Series trucks. The answer is no … like “no means no” no. If you want to know why, forum member Frdtrkrul is the answer:

My issues [with manual transmissions] are that different clutches engage at different points, or various manufacturers make you do something really dumb to get into reverse. VW makes you push the shift lever down to get the transmission into reverse. In order to get the key out of a Saab’s ignition, the transmission has to be in reverse. Manuals are not very user friendly for new people to drive them. I love manuals to death, but my good Lord, they are a pain in the ass to learn. There are too many variances in where the clutch grabs, or different shift patterns to learn.

Even people who say they love manuals still have several bones to pick with rowing one’s own. Frdtrkrul‘s comment pretty much sums up how the public and the forum regard stick-shifts, which further explains why there has been such a low stick-shift take rate in the past 10 years. At first, I was appalled that folks would pick the most surmountable of obstacles to deride the manual transmission, especially when they complained about how “difficult” it is to learn to drive stick, but then I discovered that as much as half the U.S. population cannot swim … at that point I pretty much gave up on humanity.

Above and beyond your typical automotive enthusiast, I have a little more sympathy for the dying manuals. My official motto is “Manuel only drives a manual,” and some of my friends have nicknamed me “Manual Transmission”; therefore, seeing the manual transmission die is like seeing a part of me die. I take it personally.

These are sad times for lovers of the coveted third pedal. We’re living in an era when people will throw their hands in the air and give up when faced with pushing the shift lever down to engage reverse. I wish more people like forum member MBDiagMan existed.

I am a diehard stick-shift driver. Bumper-to-bumper traffic, one car-length forward, and stopped in a traffic jam — no sweat. One of the Mercedes sticks I’ve had: beautiful. My V8 Mustang five-speed: no problem. My ’64 Galaxie “three on the tree”: heaven. My five-speed V8 4×4: bring it on. Any traffic situation, any terrain — give me three pedals, and I’m as pleased as a kid in a candy store.

When the manual transmission eventually goes the way of the hand-crank starter and the carburetor, I will remember the words of MBDiagMan, and fondly look upon the times when there were men and women who roamed the Earth who could rock a third pedal like a Gibson Les Paul.

Head to the Forum to Mourn (or Celebrate) the Death of the Manual >>

images [Atwater Ford Inc.]

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