America as an entity may be one nation under God but beyond that, things get a bit more divisive. As a people Americans relish taking sides, claiming affiliation with the like-minded, and talking trash about the opposition; Think politics, global warming, the superiority of the manual over the automatic transmission.
While I try to stay informed as to happenings in the political arena, and think there’s probably some validity to the global warming argument, neither topic gets me riled up enough to consider planting lawn signs. But, the prospect of an automotive universe devoid of the stick shift? Well, that’s enough to make me quake in my card-carrying Independent-voter boots.
Depending on the source, the number of new vehicles rolling off the assembly line with a manual transmission over the past few years was anywhere from 3 to 5-percent. Time.com recently reported a small spike – up to 6.5% – but quotes Edmunds.com analyst Ivan Drury as saying sticks are “on track to be virtually extinct in the next 15 to 20 years.”
Why, why, why can that be???
My admittedly shallow research into the growing segment of drivers who prefer an automatic seems to point to two reasons: 1. Drivers who multi-task – talk on the phone, apply make-up, and eat, all at the same time – do not have the required three hands necessary to do all of the above while also changing gears and, 2. The more people drive automatics, the fewer people teach their kids to drive a stick.
There is, however, a small but determined faction of drivers who prefer using all four limbs to engage with their vehicle. Take Eddie Alterman, the chief editor at “Car and Driver”, for example. Alterman’s not your typical stick-afficianado; The man is literally on a crusade to “save the manual” (join him in his mission at http://www.caranddriver.com/features/save-the-manuals-official-headquarters or https://www.facebook.com/SaveTheManuals). In a recent interview on NPR Alterman explained, “”It’s about do-it-yourself, it’s about having fun… It’s about actually having a connection to the mechanical part of the car” (Listen to that podcast at: http://www.npr.org/2012/03/26/149398112/car-guru-stop-downshift-in-manual-transmissions).
Then there are the arguments made by the guys at AskMen.com on their list of the “Top 10 Reasons Real Men Drive Stick”. No. 10 states that “a manual transmission is the ultimate in control”. No. 4 goes on to say “you get better fuel economy with a stick” (which is true although the difference is slight). The rest of the article deals mostly with impressing women. But if the experts in a field usually employ the best equipment, AskMen reminds us that “every professional racecar driver knows how to drive a stick.”
Ultimately, though, I prefer driving a manual because it’s a hoot. Alterman agrees. When NPR asked him about the prospect of living in a world restricted to automatics he replied: “I don’t want to live in that world, to tell you the truth. It’s a world without guys building tree houses for their kids. It’s a world without train sets. It’s a world without fun.”
So, who’s with us?
Links for the Stick Faithful:
Last Gasp for the Stick Shift? http://moneyland.time.com/2012/08/02/last-gasp-for-the-stick-shift/
10 Best Cars That Still Offer a Manual Transmission: http://editorial.autos.msn.com/the-10-best-cars-that-still-offer-a-manual-transmission
Save Gas and Money with a Manual Transmission: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/01/save-gas-and-money-with-a-manual-transmission/index.htm
Top 10: Reasons Real Men Drive Stick: http://www.askmen.com/top_10/cars/top10-reasons-real-men-drive-stick.html
Manual vs. Automatic? http://manualversusautomatic.com/