Manual Transmission: Where It Sells and Where It Doesn’t

LifeStyle on September 25, 2019

It used to be a rite of passage for parents to teach their teen drivers how to use a manual transmission. You could hear the grinding of the gears during the weeks of driver’s education as young drivers worked to coordinate their feet with their hands.

The times are changing quickly in the world of automotive technologies. Automatic transmissions were once considered a luxury option. Now the average make-and-model comes with it as the standard option – and often you must pay extra to get the manual transmission.

Data shows that the rate of purchase for vehicles with a manual transmission is only 3.7%. The rate of availability in the United States has plummeted since 1995 as well, falling from over 86% to less than 27%.

Where Does the Manual Transmission Sell Well?

According to data released by CarMax, New Mexico is the most popular state for vehicles with a manual transmission at 5.65%. Idaho comes in second place at 5.29%, while Rhode Island is in third with 5.16%. Rounding out the top 10 are Utah, Washington, Oregon, New York, Arizona, Nevada, and Massachusetts in that order.

Manual transmissions do not sell well in Illinois, where only 2.04% of vehicles come equipped with a stick shift. Mississippi is a close second at 2.06%, while Louisiana comes in third at 2.42% of sales. Rounding out the top 10 worst places for this option are Georgia, Alabama, New Jersey, Indiana, Delaware, Texas, and Wisconsin.

What is interesting about this data is that the cities where manual transmissions are popular tend to be in the states where it is not. El Paso, TX leads the way with 6.09% of sales even though the state is the ninth-worst place for driving stick. Dothan, AL comes in as the second-best city at 6%. Only Reno, NV (5.65%) bucks this trend.

What Are the Most Popular Features for Vehicles?

CarMax put together a list of the most popular features found in vehicles that customers purchased from them between August 2017 and August 2018. The top three options that drivers wanted were Bluetooth (86%), rearview cameras (64%), and front-seat heaters (48.5%).

The popularity of manual transmission sales has fallen from 27% in 1995 to the 3.7% level found in 2018. Each year, fewer customers are willing to include this option for their vehicle. Even in the places where this option sells well, it still comprises less than 7% of the total sales.

This combination of factors has led entrepreneurs to create companies in the Phoenix area like Shiftdaddy. Entrepreneurs are teaching new drivers how to manage a manual transmission, and they are finding that there are some unique benefits to consider. Teenage boys with an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis are more attentive while behind the wheel when they drive with a clutch and stick.

When you step on the clutch to change gears, you are more engaged with the vehicle. There are fewer temptations to start multitasking because your entire body is driving in some way. In an era of distracted driving, perhaps a return to the manual transmission would be helpful.