The Future of the Manual Transmission
Back in the early days of cars, manual transmissions were the first type of transmissions available. Today, automatic transmissions are taking over, and alternative fuel vehicles, such as electric cars, come with a single gear, voiding the need for any kind of transmission switch. Although manual transmissions are disappearing, there are few cars that will keep them as a part of their development, either standard or as an option for those looking for the feel of changing gears. There may even be a little safety advantage to it, but with the way the auto market is heading, any kind of driver interaction may quickly fall to the wayside once autonomous self-driving cars become the new driving standard.
The Baby Boomers and Generation X mostly grew up learning how to drive a stick shift. Some people in Generation Y, the Millennial generation, may have learned how to operate a manual transmission, possibly from a family member or friend with an old vehicle. Other drivers learn about manual transmission in Driver’s Ed, but it doesn’t go beyond that. Most of us prefer to drive a vehicle with automatic transmission – the system does the work for us, and we can focus more on the road … or anything else for that matter.
Some would say taking out the need to change gears manually makes unsafe driving practices more common. Without both hands needing to be active at all times, this leads to people texting and driving, or fiddling with things around the cabin, or really anything. “Idle hands are the Devil’s playthings” yada yada yada. With autonomous vehicles quickly closing in on the point where they not only become a reality but a practicality of the road, a free hand may not be an issue for very long. The Google Waymo fleet went to Atlanta, Georgia for further testing, having been tested in other metro areas already, and the Chevrolet self-driving Bolt EV may be the first autonomous car to hit mass production (overseas).
So with automatic transmission and self-driving cars on the horizon, making vehicles with manual transmissions desirable is an uphill battle. Less than three percent of cars sold in the United States today are stick shifts, according to auto research conducted by Edmunds. Most dealerships have 0.017 vehicles with manual transmission on the lot. What’s to keep them from disappearing completely? Muscle car enthusiasts, most likely.
Tony Martin, owner of the M&M Driving School in Cape Coral, Florida is quoted saying, “I like a manual, sporty car … You can make a lot more fun noises.” Being the owner of a Dodge Challenger R/T, that’s not a common reason we’ve heard when a driver is supporting manual gear shifts. Most of the time, especially when it comes to a Dodge Challenger, it is the feel and control that a manual gear shift provides the driver. Being able to learn how and when to change gears gives some drivers a feeling of power, even if it’s just pressing a button and moving a lever.
In the past, manual transmissions weren’t just the only option. They were also more reliable, had better gas mileage, and were less expensive. Well, that third feature is still here today, but for most vehicles with a manual transmission option, they’re only standard for the base trim, and then all vehicles past it come with automatic transmission. Today, even the 2018 Dodge Challenger comes standard with an AutoStick automatic transmission. Their pattern is a little different though, making a 6-speed manual transmission the standard for later trims, starting with the Dodge Challenger R/T, all the way up to the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. The Dodge SRT Demon actually comes with the AutoStick automatic transmission, but for those who prefer to change gears manually, they will be happy to know an “AutoStick” automatic transmission comes with a driver-interactive transaxle shifter that provides clutchless manual shifting if the driver so desires.
Today, most view their vehicle as an appliance, a machine to get them from point A to point B. Past generations may look down on that, and other parts of the world that are more automotive-minded may see it as a travesty. For the rest of us, we don’t want to fiddle with the transmission while on the road. Those of you that prefer manual transmission may be a dying breed, but you can be sure Dodge brand vehicles will always offer the ability to control the power under the hood.
Have a manual transmission in your car? Tell us why and if you prefer it over automatic transmissions on our Aventura CJDR social media page.