Friday, March 23, 2007

Manual vs Automatic

Both the Adorable Husband and I drive manual transmission cars -- we both prefer them, and have driven sticks since we started buying our own cars. But they're getting harder to find, as most new cars are build with advanced automatic transmissions (Triptronic, etc) and only a few car options on the very cheap end and the very expensive sports car range continue to offer manuals.

Not so in Europe, of course, were most cars are still manuals. But in the US, only 17% of the cars on the road are stick shifts. This came up recently because we're just starting to look for options for a next car for the Adorable Husband (in two years or so) and his current favorite -- the Passat -- is moving away from offering a manual transmission and opting for their Triptronic automatic in all their cars. You can apparently still order a manual, but it's now more expensive than the automatics. Instead of the surcharge for an automatic, which was the norm for many years, it's now a premium to have a stick.

What surprised me more was the percentage of people who are driving sticks and looking for cars with manual transmissions. From Product Design and Development,

...consider the findings of Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, which conducts extensive surveys at the retail end of the automotive business. He says that for the past three years, women, not men, have driven the manual transmission market.

In last year’s survey, 14.3 percent of women versus just 8.5 percent of men were shopping for a stick shift. In 1985, the numbers were dramatically reversed: 4.4 percent of women versus 52.8 percent of men.

I wonder what has prompted the change? Control? Manuals used to be cheaper? Flexbility? One of the suggestions about why over 80% of cars on the road are automatics is that people are doing so much more intheir cars -- cell phones, Starbucks coffee, etc. They don't have a hand free any longer to shift. Sounds reasonable to me.

Although I'm still looking for manuals when I buy my next car.

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