Unlike the U.S., most automobiles in Europe sport a manual gearbox. Historically I’m not sure why this is the case, but it may have something to do with the price of gas and the fact that auto trannies used to be less fuel efficient than manuals. Or perhaps, it’s an item on the option list that European consumers always overlooked because they mostly get bottom-level cars with minimal features. If anyone knows, please enlighten me.
In any case, this means that I have spent 14 of my 16 driving years playing with the joystick. It also means that the rarity of manual transmissions in the U.S. has made their drivers some of kind a special breed; car enthusiasts. Does this mean that to be a good petrolhead someone should only drive stick? Not at all, but that highly-coveted bond between man and machine is mainly attainable through the visceral feeling of a manual gearbox. Don’t get me wrong, the DCTs and PDKs of the world make for fantastic transmissions, but few enthusiasts would ever switch (back) to automatic.
These people are not only a special breed, but apparently an endangered species. According to various sources, only **5%** to **10%** of all cars currently sold in the U.S. come with a manual transmission. And while we’ve been singing the praises of the stick on MotoringFile & BimmerFile for as long as I can remember, we can’t ignore the fact that the manual gearbox is close to retirement, or is it?
In his latest [post](http://jalopnik.com/rejoice-the-manual-has-been-saved-1688464485) for [Jalopnik](http://www.jalopnik.com), Chris Harris speaks of a neo-manualism:
As the motorcar enters the post-manual-transmission epoch, I predict something bizarre happening: the re-emergence of the manual transmission. I’m not taking the piss. It’s going to happen. This strange confluence of events will hereby create a neo-manualism to run in parallel with matters post-manual. When cars and the language of literary theory collide the terminology goes haywire. It causes a fracas.
Harris predicts that the manual transmission will continue to thrive in its own special way, but at a certain cost, literally:
In the neo-manual phase, the stick will become the chronograph to the digital watch of the early 1980s – not as technically good on an Excel spreadsheet, but way more desirable. And capable of supporting a premium price.
Harris believes that up until recently it didn’t make business sense to the “sales dudes” to continue offering a manual option for free. But they may have found a way to make this work, and keep us happy, by charging a hefty premium for a stick shift.
Based on the rest of the post, I think his argument sadly holds true for supercars. It doesn’t really matter for appliances (e.g. Toyota), because I bet that 99.9% of their buyers don’t care for a manual transmission. Could neo-manualism affect cars like the MINI Hardtop, the Golf GTI, or the Focus RS? It’s hard to say, but it wouldn’t be the first time “sales dudes” came up with a money-grabbing scheme (e.g. $750 for enhanced Bluetooth). And for any “sales dude” reading this post, “Magic Lever Package” sounds pretty good to me; $2,500, ding!
In the meantime, let’s reflect on this doctrine with yet another beautiful car review that only Harris has the recipe for.