From the headlines-we-never-expected-to-see file: "Stick shifts popular again..." Yes, we thought manual transmissions were on their deathbed, what with every carmaker bemoaning low take rates and reports that Volkswagen has decided to do away with them in both its Audi R8 sports car and throughout the range of Lamborghini models. But lo and behold, it seems that manuals accounted for 6.5 percent of new vehicle sales during the first quarter this year, the highest take rate since 2006, according to Edmunds.com numbers cited by USA Today.
This surge in popularity comes despite a 10-percent drop in the percentage of new models offering stick shifts in the past five years, according to the report. The change in consumer behavior has surprised some automakers, including Ford, who told the newspaper that demand for a manual in the Focus is nearly 10 percent, more than double the automaker's original forecast.
Of course before we get too excited – or give credit to the Car and Driver "Save the Manuals" campaign – let's keep in mind that a decade ago, when we first started to hear the groundswell against the manual from automakers, the take rate for manuals was still running above 8 percent. And we're still faced with an inevitable demographic shift as Millennials, born after automatic transmissions became dominant, grow up. The best we can hope for is to teach those willing to learn and hope to keep the manual tranny around as long as possible.