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Has The Stick Shift Seen Its Better Days? Let's Hope Not.

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On: Mon, Aug 19, 2013 at 1:42PM | By: Bill Wilson

Has The Stick Shift Seen Its Better Days?  Let's Hope Not.

It gives drivers more control over their vehicles. It saves gas. It lowers car repair bills, improves coordination, and has played a key role in the teenage years of countless drivers. Yet, despite all it has going for it, it’s in imminent danger of going extinct. “It” is the stick shift transmission, and its days appear to be numbered.

A rite of passage for millions
Most people learn to drive in their teenage years, when the body is still developing. This may help to explain why the art of stick shift driving is so dang hard to learn. Many a parent has struggled to impart the skill to their 15- or 16-year-old. And countless mechanics have paid for their retirement by fixing the burnt-out clutches caused by these less-than-successful driving lessons. But, once the driver gets the knack, he or she is soon shifting with the best of them, whipping along curves and down highways with ease while deftly switching through the gears.

Drivers who have been through this rite of passage enjoy many benefits for their efforts. Manual transmissions, on average, chop as much as $1,000.00 off the cost of a new car. Driven correctly, manuals get more MPG than automatics as well. They also have the ability to downshift into lower gears when driving on wet or icy roads.

Manual transmissions are much simpler than their automatic cousins, which means they develop fewer problems over the long haul. And repairs are generally less expensive when trouble does occur. We should also mention that it’s impossible to text while driving a stick.That alone should make them the vehicle of choice for most teens. Plus, let’s face it, shifting just looks cool; it gives a driver that “race car feel” to slip that stick into high gear and step on the gas.

Manual transmissions are on their way out
With all that it has going for it, it might come as a shock that the beloved stick shift has almost disappeared. Yet studies show that manual trannies have been losing ground to automatics since the 1950s. Currently less than 9% of new cars sold have sticks. The reason is simple: cars with automatic transmissions are easier to drive, especially in city traffic. Why work your way through four or five gears every time a light turns green, only to do it all over again a couple of minutes later? For those to whom convenience means everything, the venerable old stick shift is more hassle than it’s worth.

There’s still hope
Despite this alarming trend, the manual transmission still has legions of fans. Among them are the people at Car and Driver magazine. They have started a "save the manuals" campaign. The movement has spread around the globe and across the internet, including a Facebook campaign with almost 25,000 “likes.” With support like this, the beloved stick shift drive may yet survive, to the joy of drivers, and the consternation of driving instructors, everywhere.


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