The change first happened in the '50s, after WWII and the trend still remains.
Technology is fast advancing, and cars have developed to include mind-blowing features like auto park and cruise control. These new and modern features are making manual transmission cars outdated almost to a point of extinction.
Automatic cars have taken over the market in such huge numbers, so much so that in 2021, only around 1 percent of new cars sold in the U.S. came with three pedals and a stick shift, reported The New York Times, a stark contrast from Europe and Asia, where about 80 percent cars that run on the road are still manual.
According to How Stuff Works, the inherent American trait to make everything supersized, including cars, could be a reason for this change.
Prewar cars across the globe operated on a manual transmission, but in the '50s, after World War II, automatic transmissions became a premium add-on for many American cars. Though the new feature that appealed to customers was that they would not have to deal with shifting gears while driving, they could also easily cover the additional cost. America was oil-rich due to which it pretty much escaped the economic fallout of the war. Being thrifty or worrying about savings wasn't a concern for an average American then. This is around the same time that people began supersizing cars in America. By 1957, auto boxes had already taken over 80 percent of the U.S. market.
However, other parts of the world were still jetting around in smaller cars. Inexpensive cars were a necessity and small manual cars were more fuel-efficient, and cheaper to produce.
Another segment where manual transmission cars continued to be manufactured and sold was the dedicated sports car industry. But, even sports cars are moving away from theree pedals and stick shift options. With modern automated gearboxes matching or even surpassing the performance offered by old stick shifts, many carmakers like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and more recently the Corvette and Toyota has done away with manual transmissions. However, a few automakers like Porsche and Honda sticking to their stick shift luxury vehicles.
"Fun to drive is a key attribute of all Honda models. For some drivers, having a manual transmission is critical," says Chris Naughton, Honda & Acura Public Relations (Eastern U.S.). "When given the choice, more than 20 percent of our sports car buyers (718 and 911 models) in the U.S. opt for the manual transmission," says Frank Wiesmann, manager, product communications, Porsche Cars North America, Inc.
As always, there will always be a market for vintage cars of the past, but people will now have to pay a premium to be transported back into the olden days.
Cover Image Source (Representative): Getty Images | Patcharanan Worrapatchareeroj