Demand for stick shift not dead yet

The manual transmission may be going the way of the Dodo bird, but drivers, like Tibor Kiss, remain diehard fans of the stick shift.

“You interact with the vehicle more; it performs the way you want it to perform, “said Tibor, who recently purchased a 2013 Fiat 500 with a manual transmission.
“It’s more fun to drive,” Tibor says.

The stick shift has steadily lost ground to automatic transmissions and now makes up about four per cent of new vehicles sales in the U.S. – down from eight per cent in 2003, said Jeremy Acevedo, auto analyst at

“To put it gently, we think of them as endangered. We keep seeing less of them.”

Earlier this month, Young Drivers of Canada in the Greater Toronto Area announced that effective February 2014, it would no longer be offering manual driving instruction.

The move doesn’t surprise Mary Barraco, centre director at Young Drivers of Canada in Windsor.

“I don’t know of any driving school locally that offers the standard shift,” said Barraco.

“The demand for standard shift training has gone down over the last several decades. We used to have a manual vehicle in our fleet, but it just sat around because no one was interested in learning how to drive standard.”

If a student wants to learn how to drive standard, Young Drivers will offer that training using the student’s vehicle, added Barraco. At the Provincial Chrysler dealership in Windsor, general manager Udo Kiewitz said vehicles with manual transmissions generate few sales.

“This year will deliver between 10 and 15 vehicles that are stick shift out of 1,400 vehicles sales,” said Kiewitz. But manual transmissions make up about 25 per cent of Fiat 500 sales, he said, adding that the stick shift option on the Fiat can shave between $1,000 and $1,400 off the price of a car.

As an incentive for those interesting in purchasing a standard Fiat 500, Provincial Chrysler will cover the cost of learning how to drive a stick shift, said Kiewitz.

Carlos Tomas, who runs – a Toronto-based company that offers instruction on manual transmission for experienced drivers – said demand for the stick shift remains strong among road warriors and Canadians who travel to Europe.

Tomas cites the following benefits: Better fuel consumption. More control over the vehicle. The ability to slow the car by gearing down instead of pumping the brakes, which can cause skidding in winter conditions.

The ability to drive any car, particularly in parts of the world (such as Europe) where automatic transmission remains an expensive upgrade and often not available.

“From the standpoint of the global economy, especially since Canada just signed a free-trade deal with the European Union, there’s going to be a lot of back-and-forth travel,” said Tomas.

But automakers are slowly, but surely, getting out of the business of offering manual transmission,” said Acevedo. “The majority of 2013 model year cars – 67 per cent – do not offer an option for manual,” he said.

“In the past, a stick shift guaranteed fuel economy, but increasingly efficient automatic and variable transmissions are a lot more fuel efficient,” he said.
Changing driving habits are another factor, he said.” Today’s driver doesn’t want to be absolutely engaged.”

Even luxury sport cars – Ferrari, Lamborghini – no longer come with a manual option, said Acevedo.

While manual cars are more common on European roads, they are on track to become virtually extinct in North America over the next 15 to 20 years, according to

The disappearing manual transmission doesn’t worry Kiss, who purchased his Fiat after his wife, Collette, bought an automatic version of the mini car.
“For me a manual was more up my alley,” he said, “I’m the fella.”

About Grace Macaluso