Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Market Downshift To Automatics

I made a hasty remark in my previous post, to the effect that only blue collar men and rich old geezers are stick-shift drivers anymore. Within a couple hours I heard from several women who also prefer driving manuals, so the stick-shifting driver demographic may be broader than I'd assumed.

But I wondered: what percentage of cars in the United States have manual transmissions, regardless of the driver's gender, age, or income, and where could I find an authoritative source for that information? And immediately I realized: by asking the federal government, of course, since they know everything and put it all on the internet.

Sure enough, the EPA's data on light-duty vehicle trends (see the executive summary excel tables) reports that in 2010 only 7 percent of our cars had stick-shifts, compared to 13 percent in 1998 and 29 percent in 1987. So, our stick-shift cars are slowing becoming a niche market for driving enthusiasts.

Not so in Europe. I've seen news media reports that as many as 85% of European cars are sold with manual transmissions. That accords with my own observations while traveling abroad, however, I haven't found an official source on the subject. For some strange reason, European governments don't seem to be so loquacious as ours.

Next I wondered: what American car brand sells the highest percentage of its cars with manual transmissions? (And I'm not including paddle shift transmissions or 'manualmatics' here; it has to have three foot peddles to count.) Is it Porsche, or BMW? Maybe Audi, or Volkswagen? Mazda?

It's none of those. I learned that Mini Cooper sells more of its cars with stick-shifts than any other maker in the U.S., as much as 50 percent. Mini has a whole ad campaign directed at that market segment. See this informational video on becoming a manual, for example.

I might wave to the next Mini driver I see while on my way to work tomorrow morning. We stick-shifters are a rare breed, and getting rarer. 


Anonymous said...

We have three vehicles in our family, all with stick shifts--a Jeep, a Mini, and a Boxster

Anonymous said...

TSB: notes that 2 days ago Egypt did away with arbitrary military detention and trial of civilians! Isn't that what we just voted in? gwb

And in anticipation of the big crowds of yesterday, the military finally did abolish the emergency decrees of 1981, which suspended key civil and human rights described in the Egyptian constitution. Although Field Marshal Muhammad Hussein Tantawi reserved the right to continue to treat harshly any “thugs,” in most cases civilians can now no longer be tried in military courts. This is a big victory.

Anonymous said...

TSB: Do you know this guy? He's President Tyler's grandson and lives right in your neighborhood. Isn't that amazing? gwb

TSB said...

Anonymous three-stick owner: You are doing more than your share to bring the stick-shift back, and I salute you for it.

I had never seriously considered getting a Mini as a daily driver before, but I'm taking a second look now.

TSB said...

GWB: Very interesting bio on Tyler. I haven't met him, but it says he created the VMI museum and I have visited there, so I guess we have overlapped somewhat.

Anonymous said...

TSB: As always, I favor Juan Cole's assessment of the Isreal situation. This morning he seems to be channelling Martin Van Creveld regarding the advances made by by Isreal's enemies. He also has good comments on the ignorance of the current candidates for Prez. gwb

TSB said...

One of our former candidates (McCain) is on NPR right now saying that a nuclear-armed Iran would present "an existential threat" to Israel. Apparently he knows better than the head of Israel's Mossad, who said the opposite last week.

Anonymous said...


It looks like Tyler's grandson is not a fan of "Newt"! It's great to have the old guard weighing in on the election! gwb

Anonymous said...

Oh! I forgot to tell you there are two of them!! This one is probably the one who follows the
Skeptical Bureaucrat! gwb