Thursday, November 12, 2015

Do You Drive Stick? Fans of Manual Transmission Can’t Let Go

Alan Macey is clutching the past. Three years ago, he persuaded his wife to ditch the family automatic for a car with a manual transmission, once commonly known as the stick shift.

“I had just had enough of driving this soulless refrigerator,” he said.

But the 33-year-old Michigan man, a designer at Jeep, part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, knows only too well the downshifting fortunes of the stick.

The proportion of cars and light trucks in the U.S. sold with manual transmissions has fallen to around 7% in 2014 from 35% in 1980, according to WardsAuto, which keeps data on car manufacturing and sales.

The decline is expected to accelerate as high-performance sports cars, once holdouts, increasingly shift to hybrid automatics.

While some young buyers still crave the clutch, most are disinclined to manually shift gears, according to Clay Voorhees, an associate professor at Michigan State University, who studies the attitude of millennials toward cars.

“The high of getting the Facebook update outweighs the emotional high of experiencing the G-forces of going around a corner,” Mr. Voorhees said. In other words, he explained, “Driving a manual is going to make you less able to text or check your phone.”

Mr. Macey is among those in the minority. “We find joy in those fleeting moments between ratios; the crescendo of rpm, the gentle click of the gate, the building inertia in our chest as the drivetrain becomes whole again,” he wrote in a manifesto that helped give birth to The Manual Gearbox Preservation Society, a movement in the making whose Facebook page has 27 likes.

by Zusha Elinson, WSJ |  Read more:
Image: shazam 791