Stick shifts see uptick in popularity
(CBS News) With all the new technology appearing in cars every year, it seems there is still one relic that isn't going away: manual transmission. Cars with stick shifts accounted for 6.5-percent of new vehicle sales in the first quarter of this year, the highest rate since 2006, according to Edmunds.com.
It may not be enough to call it a "surge" in popularity, but given the small percentage of cars that even offer stick shifts, it's a remarkable trend. Only 19-percent of the 2,360 different models on sale offer manual transmissions. Five years ago, that number was closer to 29-percent. In that year, only 2.9-percent were sold with stick shifts, the lowest "take rate" - to use an industry term - in a decade.
This change in consumer behavior has even surprised some automakers. The Ford Motor Company told USA Today that demand for manuals in the new Ford Focus is nearly 10-percent. "We were planning around 4 to 4.5-percent," Paul Russell, Focus marketing manager, told the newspaper.
This turnaround comes despite the fact that manual cars often get worse gas mileage than their automatic counterparts. But price is also a factor, and manuals are typically $1,000 less than automatics, according to Edmunds.com.
The growing popularity of compact cars may also contribute to the trend. Buyers of smaller, more efficient cars still want some power under the hood, and manual cars often offer more bang for the buck.
"In these compact cars, it's easier to get the most power from the manual," Ivan Drury, an analyst for Edmunds.com, told USA Today.