End of an Era: The Slow Demise of the Stick Shift
It's all a part of getting older. Saying goodbye to the things that represent some of the biggest milestone moments of our lives while we were growing up.
No this is not one of those old man 'get off of my lawn' rants. I love technology and continue to marvel at home much easier it makes it to navigate the world we live in.
But sometimes, the emergence of new technology means saying goodbye to the old stuff.
In this case, it's the stick shift.
In 2000, more than 15 percent of new and used cars sold by the auto retailer CarMax came with stick shifts; by 2020, that figure had dropped to 2.4 percent. Among the hundreds of new car models for sale in the United States this year, only about 30 can be purchased with a manual transmission.
Electric cars, which now account for more than 5 percent of car sales, don’t even have gearboxes.
There are rumors that Mercedes-Benz plans to retire manuals entirely by the end of next year, all around the world, in a decision driven partly by electrification; Volkswagen is said to be dropping its own by 2030, and other brands are sure to follow.
My relationship with the stick shift goes back more than 40 years. It was 1979 and I was a teenager chomping at the bit to get my first driver's license.
But there was one catch.
My dad insisted that there would be no trip to the DMV for my driving test until I mastered the intricacies that came with operating a vehicle that came with a clutch pedal.
The process was not enjoyable.
There I was in our blue 1979 Toyota Celica hatchback, dreading each and every red light and stop sign, knowing full well that getting the car moving from a dead stop wouldn't be pretty.
In my mind, I can still hear the engine revving and feel the car lurching as it inevitably stalled out in the middle of a busy intersection.
But over time I learned that delicate balance between the right amount of gas pedal combined with the proper release of the clutch.
That's when my love affair with the stick shift began. Thanks, Dad!
In all honesty, it's been years since I've been behind the wheel of a vehicle with a manual transmission, but in my heart I know I'd pick up right where I left off.
Let's hope I get the chance before it's too late.