Only 10% of Vehicles Made in North America have Manual Transmissions

On a car shopping mission last year, Marlo Dewing set out with a single requirement for her new ride: a manual transmission. This proved to be more difficult than she anticipated.

“Any car that was only available as an automatic was a deal breaker,” said Dewing, 44. “I love to drive. I want to know that I am actually driving, that I am in control of the machine.”

That made her shopping list a very short one. Only around 10 per cent of vehicles made in North America now have manual transmissions, down from 35 per cent in 1980. And that number is expected to keep shrinking, according to the consulting firm IHS Automotive.

Improvements in the function and fuel economy of automatic transmissions have essentially killed the manual in the U.S., says Jack Nerad, the senior editor of Kelley Blue Book. Some of the country’s bestselling sedans — the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion — don’t even offer manual transmissions because so few buyers want them. Even some sporty cars, like the Jaguar F Type, come only with automatics.

Two years ago, Chrysler was burned when it assumed there would be higher demand for manual transmissions in its Dodge Dart compact car. The car sold slowly. This year, when Fiat Chrysler’s Alfa Romeo 4C sports car arrives in the U.S., it won’t offer a manual transmission.

When a manual enthusiast questioned that decision at a company event in May, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said U.S. demand for manuals is simply too limited.

“It’s going to be you and four guys. That’s my assessment of our market demand,” he said. “I’ll buy one too, but then it’s only going to be six.”

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