By on April 7, 2014


In a bid to boost sales of the Fiat 500 Turbo and Abarth, the two boosted versions of Fiat’s city car will get an optional automatic transmission.

Automotive News is reporting that Fiat will add the two-pedal gearbox in July, when the 2015 models begin production. While Fiat sold about 36,000 500s in the USA last year, around 5370 of those were Abarths, and Fiat boss Jason Stoicevich puts a lot of the blame on its manual-only configuration.

Speaking to AN, Stoicevich was blunt in his assesment of what was holding the Abarth back, stating

Frankly, [young people] just don’t drive a manual transmission,”

According to him, the addition of the auto could add another 2700 or so units to the Abarth’s sales tally. Overall, 500 sales have been down by about 13 percent year-over-year.

EDIT: 500 Abarth sales figures updated

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188 Comments on “Fiat Adds Automatic Abarth, Young People “Don’t Drive A Manual Transmission”...”


  • avatar
    djn

    I hang my head in shame..

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      djn . . ..

      Stoicevich said, “Frankly, [young people] just don’t drive a manual transmission..”

      He could have stopped earlier: “Frankly, [young people] just don’t drive..” They don’t.

      They occupy the left seat while pushing on the go pedal with one foot while, chatting or texting on the cell phone, or munching on a Big Mac, or applying lipstick, or….you name it. Brake pedal? What brake pedal?

      To this modern generation of drivers, the car is just a mobile life-style preparations and communications room.

      Could it also be that the Fiat 500 Turbo and Abarth aren’t selling well because they can’t compete well with the MIni Cooper??

      ————–

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        As a driver’s car, they sure can’t compete with the Coop. But then the Coop isn’t all that compared to an Evo…. Or FR-S. Or even Miata.

        I like driving the Abarth. If you’re stuck within city limits, and aren’t street racing for pink slips, it is more fun to whip around than any of the others; sans perhaps the little Mazda. As an auto, it just may sell to the ever growing legions of people I see trying to play Mediteranean maniacs on Scooters these days.

      • 0 avatar

        NMGOM, stuki as to competing with Mini or not it depends on what you value. The seating position is better in the 500, there’s mo internal space, the ride is less jarring, and on the Abarth the engine note is more enticing. I also like the manual better. Different strokes for different folks.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          And here in the States anyway, you get all that at a significantly cheaper price both upfront and (so far) long-term vs. the Mini.

          I certainly love mine! Puts a stupid grin on my face every time I drive it.

          As for the availability of the automatic? Why not? If it sells more cars (and obviously it will) more power to them. As long as you can still get a manual too. Would be REALLY nice if they would get a 6spd manual into the Abarth – it could really use one.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Mother of God, were they really that blind to American market realities? I’ll bet Stoicevich had been saying “MTs won’t sell!” all along to clueless Italian bosses. Or he should have been.

    This is America! Even our snot kids insist upon Automatics and Antiperspirants.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Exactly my view as well! Fiat was trying to peddle their little gem to young people living in the metropolis, and didn’t realize that the majority of buyers won’t row a manual in inner-city traffic. Too distracting while texting or talking on the phone!

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        All 500s but the Abarths are available with an autobox. Inner city dwellers looking for an economy car thats easy to park wouldn’t necessarily go for the top performance Abarth model that can approach 25k. Apparently there is an opportunity to upsell a higher end 500 with an auto, however. Since Fiat doesn’t have much other product in NA at the moment, why not.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          danio, I agree because all that matters to any automaker is SALES! The name of the game is to sell, any which way they can. If all it requires is subbing an auto-slushbox, why not?

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I suspect the actual take rate on the Abarth automatic will be fairly low. But the Turbo REALLY needed the automatic, as that car solves the #1 complaint about the 500, lack of power. For not a lot of money, either. I suspect the reason the Abarth is getting the automatic is that the Turbo is, so they might as well offer it.

          • 0 avatar
            Hemi

            Oh God, I’m not surprised. Automakers did that with a lot of cars and it helped sales (Supra, 300ZX, 370z to name a few). Nothing wrong as long as they sell the manual along side.

            Also to add, out of my non enthusiast friends, I don’t thing anyone can drive stick. I went to a NYE party and out of 6 valet drivers, only one could drive stick….

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      I don’t know about you, but I insist the snot’s wear Antiperspirants. They may well be spoiled, they don’t have to smell that way.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        If they’re breaking a sweat in yoga class, they’re doing it wrong.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I’ll have you know, I accompanied my gf to her yoga class once, and I was a sweaty mess within minutes! I slipping all over the mat. They crank the heat in the ‘studio’ to about 90F to prevent stretched muscles or something. I had no issues with the pushup or crunches segments, but flexible I am not. I recommend anyone who wants an eyeful of yoga-pants clad women to attend a free class, just pass on the kale juice that they hawk to the Mercedes GL-soccer mom crowd.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I do yoga regularly as part of a larger cardio workout, and even though I’m used to it, it is pretty tough. And that’s in a room at 65F.

  • avatar
    RollaRider10

    Maybe young people don’t drive manuals because there aren’t any for sale.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      The reality of manual-only vehicles sales figures says otherwise.

      The market has spoken. Outside of one very limited market (EU) very few people want manuals.

      • 0 avatar
        imag

        Totally agreed. And I like manuals.

      • 0 avatar
        solracer

        In ots of non-EU markets manuals outsell automatics, sometimes by a large amount, Russia for example. The Abarth is hardly the only car in it’s class that comes manual-only either, Ford doesn’t offer an automatic in the Focus ST and Fiesta ST either. Lastly the Miata is primarily sold as a manual. Originally it was probably 20-1 manuals over automatics and even now in 2014 it’s probably 10-1,

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        CY2013 sales in the EU were 11.9 Million. The US is 15.6 million. Smaller, but hardly inconsequential.

        This is what annoys me – if it’s a model that is clearly a US-only niche, say, a bubba-truck or a low-end large sedan (F-150 and Impala, as examples), it seems logical that the trouble of a manual version wouldn’t be worthwhile*.

        But for cars that are sold in the EU and US, why not? Even if it’s a special order, it’s still a sale.

        I’d guess that it’s either:
        - Extensive certification required for each variant because of protectionist laws in the US.
        - US buyers refuse to special order a car, preferring the Wal-Mart everything-in-stock formula.

        Or a mix of the two.

        * And yet for some reason, even automatic-only cars have console shifters, often styled to look like manual levers with a leather boot and rounded knob. I suppose there’s still a stylistic stigma against automatics as looking old, but the illusion is broken anyway when you see “PRND21″ like your great aunt’s Buick.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Hah! I saw what you did there. I guess an old RWD Ford LTD has the same length, width, and wheelbase as a 4-door F150.

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          More likely is that US dealers don’t like to special order small volume cars, especially if they are coming from far away. (Do the US Fiats come from Mexico or Poland?) I had to special order a Ford once and the dealer scoured the region for a car I’d like before they went ahead and ordered mine. Also, the manufacturer/distributor isn’t too keen on stocking low volume parts for said cars. Having said that there are some S model Audis that can be had in the US with a manual transmission but not in Germany.

          Other than the dread “chicken tax” affecting pickup trucks, the US marketplace is anything but protectionist. Much production of formerly imported cars has moved to North America from Japan and western Europe because the cost is lower here, not because those cars can’t be imported.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The US car market is oriented around selling pre-built inventory on spec.

          It’s safer for both the OEMs and the dealers to have configurations on hand that customers will want to buy.

          Dealer profits decline as they hold inventory for longer periods. Accordingly, they are more motivated to sell a car that they have on the lot than they are to sell a special order that has yet to be built.

          Building cars on a made-to-order basis also raises costs. These costs are difficult to pass on in the US, as the US market is more price competitive than most. Consequently, the US gets better pricing, but loses some variety in the process.

          Generally speaking, businesses are motivated to do what they do because of the business climate or their own corporate politics, not because of the government.

          It’s easier to understand business generally if you begin analyzing issues from that standpoint, rather than assume that the guv’mint has much to do with it. There are individual circumstances when the answer does lead back directly to government, but those are exceptions to the rule.

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            Plus, if you’re really wanting something odd, as a general rule, someone has it. A quick search of Cars.com in my area shows manual transmission Ford Fusions and Mazda 5s, neither of which would be considered in demand.

      • 0 avatar
        daver277

        only North Americans (at least NA north of Mexico) is clutch challenged.
        The 3rd pedal is an anti-theft device BTW.

    • 0 avatar
      Sals

      Reported in USA Today last Friday that Ford Fiesta is selling about a quarter with manuals. Somebody is buying all those manuals–is it only cheapskate geezers who can still bend into a small car?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Actually, I think the main reason manuals don’t sell anymore is that drivetrains have become far more advanced, to the point where you don’t need a stick shift to get decent performance and gas mileage out of a car. This wasn’t always true, especially when it came to compacts and small midsizes.

      My first car was an ’81 Rabbit (non-diesel), and it had something like 80-90 hp. I could have bought the stick shift or automatic models, and I took the stick shift for a simple reason: the automatic was a total dog. With the A/C on, it barely got out of its own way.

      Today, the equivalent car – a Golf – has 170 hp standard, so you don’t need to row the gears to get decent performance out of it, and it’s rated at 24/31 mpg. A four-cylinder Honda Accord with an automatic will do 0-60 in about seven and a half seconds. Granted, the manual version is about a second quicker, but the automatic’s performance is a long way from unacceptable.

      I enjoy stick shifting, and maybe it is sad that manuals are disappearing, but let’s be honest: if a car performs well enough without one, does anyone really mind an automatic? And as the technology gets better, I think manuals will become less relevant in all but the smallest cars, or performance models.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        FreedMike, I agree with you. I have always personally preferred manuals, but I know that my tastes will seldom be the market’s tastes.

        You’re right that engines have become a lot peppier. Automatic transmissions have also improved dramatically. When I learned to drive, “automatic” meant either a 3-speed or (shudder) Hydramatic 2-speed, with a very inefficient clutch mechanism. Today, we’re looking at 6-9 speed boxes that are much more efficient at transferring power than their predecessors. So, the additional performance of a manual over an automatic has largely (if not entirely) disappeared. And I quite understand that most people will value the convenience of an automatic over whatever advantage a manual might offer.

        The manual transmission looks to be going in the same direction as the manual choke.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Agreed. Tried to post this earlier but the site vanished for a while:
        Let’s not be too hard on the kidz. It’s been a long time since manuals were anything but a niche here in the US of A. I learned to drive in the 70s, so shopping for my first car meant looking at a lot of 60s and Malaise iron. Almost everything with more than four cylinders came with an automatic. I expect the only reason we saw fewer 4-banger automatics was that the slushbox significantly reduced the already anemic performance while also dragging down mpg. Today’s motors and trannies are orders of magnitude better, so there’s little justification for a stick other than “I want one”.

        The last two cars I bought came with 3 pedals, and while saving $1000 certainly appealed to the cheap bastard in me, that wasn’t a huge factor.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it’s kind of a chicken or the egg problem. There aren’t a lot of manuals out there, so young people don’t know how to drive manuals, which makes them reluctant – especially when dealing with buying a new car – to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a new car they don’t know how to drive, with a type of drivetrain they don’t know if they will like to drive.

  • avatar

    If I have a manual transmission, how am I supposed to be able to text or fondle my girlfriend???

    How is a female driver supposed to be able to do her makeup?

    These are the things car makers are supposed to consider!

    • 0 avatar
      anti121hero

      This is sad, but very true. Also, kids of a younger generation have no desire to learn, or just want everything to be as convenient and easy for them as possible.i actually know quite a few younger people that drive manuals, but the only vehicles they drive are big trucks, jeeps, or used sports cars, and being a car enthusiast I tend to stick around a like minded crowd.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam Hell Jr

        Oh, for crying out loud.

        An entire generation of drivers (read: not today’s younger buyers) that came of age driving manuals rejected them wholesale when they started to be able to afford new cars, to the point where, by the time folks my age or Derek’s were learning to drive, there just weren’t many stick-shift beaters lying around anymore.

        Seriously, I can think of maybe about five cars in my high school parking lot that had sticks, and that was more than a decade ago now. By and large — and plainly readers of TTAC will be exceptions to this — we didn’t know many people who drove stick, nobody taught us how to do it or why it mattered, and aside from boy racer types, we wouldn’t even have been aware that we were missing something. It has very little to do with, say, mobile phones or fondling, and much more to do with market forces that were in play well before we were signing the dotted line ourselves.

        Grown-ups, not Millennials, years ago voted with their wallets, en masse, and killed the manual transmission in North America. If Baby Boomers and Gen Xers preferred automatics back in the analog age, what’s the argument in their favor now that even a pedestrian torque converter 6-speed is more efficient and often shifts about as quickly? A “more engaging driving experience”? (Cue crickets.)

        I learned to drive stick later in life. I admit, it’s fun. If I had an Abarth, I’d want the stick. But then I like cars. I’m sympathetic to those for whom “an engaging driving experience” is a lesser priority. For not just Millennials, but for the vast majority of the car-buying North American populace, driving stick ranks on the scale of meaningful pursuits somewhere between repairing mechanical watches and writing in Spencerian cursive. If you need somebody to blame, well, get a mirror.

        • 0 avatar
          CRConrad

          Wooo, more than an entire decade since high school? Newsflash, Junior: You ARE today’s feckless youth. ;-)

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            Why does it matter if he is young? What is that saying… “from the mouths of babes”?

            Basically, Sam Hell NAILED IT. Absolutely NAILED it. Boomers and Gen X have been doing 90% of the car buying for the last 20 years… Over that time, manuals have died. I’ve purchased 5 new cars in my 31 years. Only 2 of them were even available with a stick shift. I selected MT every time I could. Given the choice, I’d have purchased all 5 with a stick (even my 4Runner). So, who killed manual transmissions, again?

            Millennials haven’t had enough time to screw everything up. Boomers had a 40 year head start.

          • 0 avatar
            CRConrad

            Yeah, relax, I was just going “get off my lawn”, you know. Come on, admit it was at least a little funny how he was all “high schol was more than a decade ago”, as if that were such a long time… Quite independently of how right he was otherwise.

            (As for the actual subject of the article, I’m among those who were totally surprised they’re launching an automatic Abarth now — I would have thought there’d always been one, at least on the American market. Weird mistake.)

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          Thank you, thank you, thank you for being the voice of reason, Mr. Hell. And this from a Millennial who can drive stick, but doesn’t on his only car, because he didn’t know how when he bought it, and it’s more responsible financially for him to drive it until the wheels fall off than it is to buy something else. (Geez, that’s a long sentence.)

          • 0 avatar
            Sam Hell Jr

            I’m in the same boat. Torn between my youthful ignorance of stick-shift operation and my more recent, all-too-30something desire to be done making car payments.

          • 0 avatar
            daver277

            I also drive my cars for a long, long time. I can afford to drive almost anything I want because I do all my own maintenance and repairs and the idea of repairing an auto scares the hell out of me. Manuals are easy.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          >>Oh, for crying out loud…

          That’s usually followed by… Get off my lawn!

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            GOML only applies to leading edge boomers who became eligible for Social Security in the last three years, and older. Most others rent, or live in condos, or rent condos. We’ll need to come up with a replacement for GOML soon.

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

          Well said.

          It’s funny how it’s always the younger generation that’s being lamented as going to hell, no matter what generation is doing the lamenting.

          It’s never, ever the current generation. They’re faultless.

          You’d think we’d have reach Rome-at-it’s-decline levels of debauchery four hundred years ago, given the sanctimonious bitching from each successive generation of people who start to feel out-of-touch and hard-done-by.

        • 0 avatar
          frozenman

          My 22 year old daughter only wants to drive ” a cheap automatic used car until the Google cars come out, cause driving sucks”. So there you go!

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            If it were your son, he’d have places to go, things to do, and girls to pick up. He’d probably be zeroing in on the girls who hate to drive, so keep an eye on your daughter!

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          >>shrugs<< I can remember when the death of the manual was being lamented back in the 80's until a resurgence in domestic performance brought them back.

          Unfortunately with the rise of better performing automatics and the various SMG/DSG transmissions has rendered the performance advantage of a manual mostly obsolete not to mention getting said numbers from a manual trans vehicle requires a fair degree of skill (in the case of drag racing this can easily be a half second or more) where an auto or SMG/DSG merely involves matting the gas pedal and letting the calibration engineer's prowess do the work for you.

        • 0 avatar

          I consider it my duty to teach kids to drive sticks. But it’s hard to find them if you’re not dedicated. Only one of my former pupils (there have been maybe 8-10) has a car with a stick, a hand-me-down from her parents. My sister’s two sons, 16 and 20, are good at driving stick, but they didn’t care enough to find cars with sticks (both have used Accord coupes).

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      I can speak from experience to part of your first question: While driving a stick, one fondles one’s girlfriend (at length) while in top gear on the interstate.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      The funny and sad thing about your post is that 10-20 years from now, the same arguments will be used to explain why most of the cars on the road are self-driving cars.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Bzzzt, wrong. For starters the average age of a car on American roads today is like 11 years old and increasing. Cars are lasting longer and people are buying new ones less and less. Self driving cars will be new and thus will generally be pretty rare for a long time. It will be 30-40 years before they are a majority on the roads and that is assuming the tech gets cheap enough to do on a mainstream basis.

        Even if you were right though- and let’s be clear, you’re not- there’s nothing to indicate that human driven cars are disappearing. Just like there’s nothing to indicate that the manual gearbox is disappearing. Manuals are just being shifted to cars for folks that enjoy driving. Nobody misses stickshift Camrys, and I would argue that today the performance car market is at a peak we haven’t seen in decades. Pony cars, rally cars, small sports cars, GTs etc… all this stuff is available with stickshift for 20, 30, 40K at levels of performance that was limited to exotica not even 10 years ago. So pls spare me the belly aching and paranoia… stickshift is in its moment now, as is the performance car.

      • 0 avatar

        If a car is “self driving”, JOHNNY CAB, i can be in the backseat with my girlfriend completely oblivious to road conditions.

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      +1
      Besides, with the 1,000 watt sound system blaring 50 Cent’s latest album, you can’t hear the engine straining in the wrong gear.

  • avatar
    piro

    29 and I’ve honestly never driven an automatic.

    But then again, England.

  • avatar

    I hope Ford ST doest go this direction. I like being able to judge the souls of those who come in asking for a test drive only to have to admit they can’t drive the car! My girlfriend won’t even let me teach her manual though…

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      First, Ford would have to find a transmission suitable for the Focus/Fiesta ST. The current GM/Ford 6-speed auto isn’t available in either car, and the Ford/Getrag DCT would explode if they hooked up the 2.0T or 1.6T to it. Even the wet clutch DCT Getrag is working on for Ford is only supposed to handle about 220 torques. The 9-speed auto developed with GM may always be an option.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Doesn’t Ford have those engines paired with automatics in the Fusion and Escape? Maybe those transmissions don’t fit in the Fiesta and Focus?

  • avatar
    threeer

    I understand the realities of needing to make sales and that manuals are on the march out as far as availability goes in the US. Having said all of that, this is still a little sad. Sure, you can still buy a MT Abarth, but just knowing there is an AT variant hurts the sports car enthusiast’s soul. Fiesta ST has been on my short list, just hope they maintain a MT option. Grab yer sticks while ya can!

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I think it’s vastly better to have both a manual and automatic version of a sporty trim level, than no sporty trim level at all because the maker can’t sell enough manual transmission versions to justify its existence.

      It doesn’t bother me that someone else would want an automatic transmission version of a car I’d want in a stick, to each his or her own.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Will the automatic allow the driver to keep the 1.4 liter in the peak part of its torque curve – which I’ll assume is the higher rpm?

    A car with a large displacement engine can afford to use a transmission that defaults to the lowest RPM possible. There isn’t much torque at low rpm with a 1.4 liter even if it is rated to produce 160 hp.

    • 0 avatar
      kyleck

      Very true. I had a 2010 GTI with the DSG tranny, and the DSG really made the car feel like a dog. The transmissions sole purpose in D was to get to sixth as quickly as possible. Put it in S or Manual mode, and it wasn’t so bad, but if you are using the paddles all the time, why not just get the manual? (Aside from DSG reliability issues- glad I sold it!)

      A small, peppy car is simply meant to have a manual, enough said.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The DSG GTI is faster to 60 than the manual GTI. I never found our MkV GTI with the DSG to be a dog.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        My experience with a 2010 DSG GTI, which is my current daily driver, has been completely opposite. I find the DSG to be a brilliant automatic transmission, and this comes after thirty straight years of driving manual transmission cars. For tooling around town, I leave it in Drive and don’t notice the car feeling “like a dog”. If I’m in a sporting mood, it goes into Sport mode with upshifts coming close to redline. Manual mode is for times when I really want to hold the revs at screamingly high levels just for thrills, but the Sport mode programming is so good I very rarely feel the need to go to pure manual.

        I wonder if you had a malfunctioning DSG unit?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The Dart 1.4T (same engine) is dog slow below 3500 rpm. They’ll really have to tune this version to make it move.

      0-60 times aren’t everything; driveability in the city for the turbo is awful, even for the stick.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        True, and the 500 isn’t exactly a rocket to begin with with a manual. Still, having 800 pounds less to lug around compared to the Dart might help.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        True, and the Abarth is no rocket to begin with. Then again, it’s about 800-900 pounds lighter than a Dart, so that might help.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          The Abarth is faster than it’s 0-60 numbers would suggest. It is SEVERELY traction limited in 1st gear, and somewhat in 2nd. It is also a fairly peaky motor, so you have to rev it in fine Italian fashion. From 20mph on up it is a missile.

          I can see why the average American who can’t find full throttle or the redline with a GPS would hate this engine.

          • 0 avatar
            GeneralMalaise

            Yep, +5… push the Sport button, turn the ESC fully off and hang on. This car is serious fun, sold my 350Z before buying my 2012 and never looked back.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Do young people buy these?

    I always see the VW Beetle type people in them, old ladies that just want something cute, and if its a convertible style then the old lady is one that shouldn’t have bought a convertible, erhem.

    • 0 avatar

      The Abarth is actually a hoot to drive. We had one traded in here and I was blown away with it. True, I might have just had really low expectations, but for a street car on back roads it’s a fun, if unpractical for many, ride.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        They may be a hoot to drive but are they practical? Lots of cars are a hoot to drive but young people who actually buy this class of car usually buy something else that’s a lot more practical.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          The 500 is no family car, but it has plenty of room if you’re single.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Went to an All-You-Can-Eat place in Tempe, AZ, a couple of weeks ago, and up pulls this 500 with TWO people in it, two-ton Terry and her 400lb husband Bubba. It was a spectacle watching them unload themselves.

            I kid you not! So I inconspicuously mozied over to look at the rear license plate on the 500 and it was from CA (Venice to be exact).

            Imagine taking a long trip, like crossing the desert, in one of those. I’m 6ft tall and not fat, but I could not fold myself into a little ball to fit into that 500.

            Yet these two morbidly obese people managed to do just that. That’s a complement to Engineering and Design at Fiat.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Well, you could definitely call me plump, but there was plenty of room in the 500 I drive.

            I’ve taken long trips in worse cars, that’s for sure.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @highdesertcat

            If you look up the Venom Vellum piece on my 328!, you can see a picture of me. I am over 6′, and about, er, um, 350lbs on a good day. I am a BIG guy. My Abarth is as roomy for me as my Range Rover (actually it has waay more headroom than the Rover). You sit up high, and it is a very tall little car. The seat goes WAAAY back if you need it to. The doors are huge. Very easy to get in and out of. And while I would not want to go more than across town, four good-sized 6′ tall guys fit in it. And that is with the larger Abarth front seats. Regular 500s have more room.

            And ultimately, while a 500 seems tiny compared to the modern XXXL-sized everything, it is about the same size inside as an original VW RAbbit, actually more back seat room. Not as much cargo space – that short length comes out of the front AND the back.

            It’s also perfectly competent on the highway, with the exception of the old expansion jointed concrete highways. Smooth and quiet. I’ve driven mine Maine to DC and back with no complaints.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            krhodes1, I said it was a complement to the Engineering and Design at Fiat. It is also a testament to the ingenuity of the engineers at Fiat to do more with less.

            I attribute my inability of folding my 6ft 195lb frame into the 500 on advanced age and more than fair wear and tear.

            However, having said all that, I wish I could erase the picture out of my mind of the two morbidly obese people egressing out of that 500 at the AYCE place in Tempe.

            I could see that they fit. They drove up in the 500. But watching them get out of the 500 was a gawd awful sight!

            I believe that there is a place for the 500, especially in the inner cities. I’m a firm believer in “If they build it, they will come” and “The more, the merrier”.

            What I can’t understand for the life of me is why Fiat has just now come to the conclusion that MOST Americans prefer a slushbox in their cars, regardless of brand, size, class or efficiency.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @Highdesertcat

            I don’t see why you think it is all that special, it simply is not as small a car as you think it is. It is a SHORT car, but it is very tall and relatively wide. I don’t see why you would have to “fold” yourself into it, as I mentioned, it has bigger doors than and is in some ways roomier than my ’01 Range Rover (in the front seats, of course). It is certainly MUCH easier to get in and out of than the Rover, being rather closer to the ground but having kitchen chair height seating. Now two 400lbers getting out of an ORIGINAL FIAT 500 would be a sight to see! I’ve driven one of those – I had to be folded, spindled, and mutilated to fit. But it was good fun!

            But ultimately, I have no doubt that FIAT wanted an automatic in the Turbo (most certainly) and the Abarth (possibly) from the get-go. But they did not have one that would fit. Now they do. There have only been two years of Abarths and a single year of Turbos, so not THAT far behind in the grand scheme of things.

            The real story is that the Turbo is getting the automatic, as I would think that car will make up a much bigger percentage of sales than the Abarth ever will. The lack of an automatic has certainly been killing sales of the Turbo. I suspect the vast majority of Abarths will continue to be manuals, it is simply that sort of car.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            krhodes1, The reason is that the 500 was parked adjacent and next to my wife’s Grand Cherokee in the parking lot of the AYCE place as we were sauntering up to the GC after having gorged ourselves. There is a distinct difference in size. Eye-catching, really.

            I also completely understand that a slushbox was available on the lower 500 models but that the Abarth wasn’t offered with one. I did not know that there was not an automatic available until now.

            In the end what matters is that Fiat sells all models of the 500 if they want to make money with them. I haven’t seen any in my area, but did see one in El Paso, TX and on the college campus in Las Cruces, NM.

            Understand that I am not in the market for one, but my 21 yo grand daughter has expressed that she thought it was a “cute little car”.

            And she is graduating at the end of next month. And I did want to trade off her 2011 Elantra and replace it with a new car that she wants so we can launch her into life on her own career path with a new set of wheels.

            Right now it is a toss-up. Depending on which job offer she accepts, and depending on the location of her initial assignment, the vehicle she may be getting from us could be a 4wd Tacoma, a 4wd Imprezza, or any other compact car she chooses that is applicable for the terrain and surroundings of where she will be working and residing.

            One thing for certain, though, it will be an automatic, not a manual. She knows how to drive a manual — her very first hand-me-down was her brother’s Tacoma, but she definitely wants an automatic.

          • 0 avatar
            GeneralMalaise

            I’m 6’2″ tip the scales at 250, I’m comfortable when driving and there’s plenty of room for a front seat passenger. I have an Abarth with a sunroof and all that is required is to ratchet the driver’s seat down to its lowest setting. I’m amazed to read review after review where the poor sod can’t figure out how to take advantage of this setting for acceptable headroom in a sunroof equipped car.

        • 0 avatar

          Hey highdesertcat! I don’t think the Cincuecento is meant to be practical in the sense you’re using the word practical. A family car it’s clearly not, but I’d love one anyway as the wife’s car can handle family duty. Getting in with the wife and going away for week to the beach (far from where I live)would be lovely. It’d have the added benefit of forcing her to pack light!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Hi Marcelo; I think that there is a place for any Fiat product, and for the 500 that could certainly be the inner cities or crowded streets of an American Metropolis.

            That said, who wants to row through the gears from stop light to stop light? Especially if they are busy reading their email and texts on their smart phone.

            This is something that young people in America do! I don’t understand why someone at Fiat would not have understood from the initial offering of the 500 in America that MOST American drivers will opt for an automatic, regardless of brand, size or class.

            The actual number of buyers of manual transmission cars in America is a minority. Even the boys and girls in Detroit understood that, and they were slow to understand most other things automotive, starting with quality, durability and reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Another reason is: Females wear things on their feet they very loosely call “shoes”, or flip-flops, or nothing, which makes very hazardous driving, especially in a stick. Unfortunately, many males do the same thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      Most everyone I know under 35 wants a dead-nuts reliable car with a usable trunk and backseat. If they’re female, they want it with ground clearance, and if they’re male, it seems they want it with an open bed. Granted I live in northwest Ohio and we are not flush with the urban dwellers Fiat’s targeting.

  • avatar
    Travis

    Pretty sure the Civic SI is only available in a stick shift, and I still see those everywhere.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    It’s OK, as long as the shifter looks like a manual knob and has a leatherette boot, it still looks like you’re driving your manual sports car. Now make voom-voom noises

    ps Let’s see how many comments this manual topic can still generate, hmmmmm?

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    The question is, “Is this a good automatic, one with snappy shifts and a usable manual shifting mode?”. If it is, then there’s a good reason to get it, otherwise, it’s just pandering.

    I’ve been driving stick for the last 40 years, and I’m getting to the point where I think the idea of a three pedal manual transmission with an H patterned shifter is an anachronism. If new sporting cars are going to be equipped with a manual transmission, can we at least have a sequential shifter?

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Two things , the take rate is not bad for the stick, better than I would have thought it would be. Aren’t these city cars? , I would think a auto would work better in stop and go city driving for 99% of the people driving. One reason young kids do not drive stick is very few people own stick cars to teach them how. My daughter will learn to drive a stick but that is because I have a extra car that I bought bc it was a stick. I f I did not have that she would never learn how to drive one.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      “I would think a auto would work better in stop and go city driving for 99% of the people driving.”

      Very true. A manual is a nuisance in stop-and-go, which is increasingly common and severe as time goes by.

  • avatar
    DougD

    About 10 years ago I was driving one of my relatives somewhere (12 year old boy) and he asked “What’s that you’re doing with that lever?” I have to give him credit for asking, but the kid had never seen anyone drive a standard transmission in his whole life.

    I think we’ve passed some sort of critical mass thing in North America where not only can the bulk of people not drive a stick, but they don’t even know what it is.

    You would think that young people would want to save $1000 on the cost of a new car, and have more fun while driving.

    My kids are going to learn to drive standard in a 63 Beetle. Kid #1 starts lessons in the fall…

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “My kids are going to learn to drive standard in a 63 Beetle.”

      If it’s hilly where you live they’ll get a thorough education in artful clutch work :-)

      And downshifting.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      That’s another thing that killed the stick shift. OEMs are expected to charge $1,000 less for a car that likely costs $1,000+ more to build/assemble.

      Automatics last well past the basic warranty, but a clutch can be wasted in minutes by a ‘learner’. Not the clutch itself, but ‘hot spots’ on the flywheel.

      But it’s good to teach your kids to drive a stick, even if they never own one.

      • 0 avatar
        gtrslngr

        Actually Denver Mike … manuals cost much less to develop and manufacture . By a lot more than the $1000 discount you get for choosing one over an auto . Simple fact is … there’s hardly any development costs involved in producing a manual transmission these days : whereas autos require multiple stages of development … from the basic concept right up to the final fitment in a specific model

        No … whats killing off the manual is a bunch of lazy arsed teens an twenty somethings too wrapped up in their Smart/Phone/Pads Facebook Twitter etc to be bothered with learning how to shift along with an aging and huge Boomer [ I is one btw ] population no longer wiling to shift due to the multiple injuries we’ve sustained over the years due to our perhaps overly active lifestyle especially here in CO

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          It’s costly when you have to slow down the assembly line to build a car that varies so much from automatics. And it’s difficult to prove ‘abuse/misuse’ with clutch warranty claims.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          “No … whats killing off the manual is a bunch of lazy arsed teens an twenty somethings too wrapped up in their Smart/Phone/Pads Facebook Twitter etc to be bothered with learning how to shift along with an aging and huge Boomer [ I is one btw ] population no longer wiling to shift due to the multiple injuries we’ve sustained over the years due to our perhaps overly active lifestyle especially here in CO”

          No, it’s because they don’t have manuals to learn on. Mom and Dad gave up the stickshift car years ago.

          We are the exception in the neighborhood and it’s because I sometimes buy used cars with sticks, partly because I can save significant $$ by doing so.

          Sticks are harder to sell used and I’d never buy a new car without automatic until I felt I was financially comfortable enough that it was intended solely as a toy car.

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          Not seeing where the generational thing applies. Growing up in the 60′s, I don’t recall every having ridden in a car with a manual transmission, and by the mid 50′s more than 80 percent of the US built fleet had automatics. In the US, once automatics became available, they became the norm. The import tide of the 70′s and 80′s gave manual trans cars some traction in the marketplace, but since then, the take rate on MT’s in non-US brands has been on an overall slow decline.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=728259497194308

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      “You would think that young people would want to save $1000 on the cost of a new car, and have more fun while driving.”

      Two things: the average young person (and this is coming from a Millennial enthusiast) is not a gearhead, and does not care about having fun in their car. (The same can be said of the average driver). And you know what? There’s nothing really wrong with that. Contrary to what American Graffiti, Back to the Future, Dazed and Confused, and countless other similar films might have you believe, it is not an inimitable part of the American experience to have a cool car.

      Also, saving $1000 is nice, but the average young person does not buy new. I can count on one hand the number of people in my high school class (granted, that was almost 5 years ago) who had anything newer than 2 years old, even counting the ones whose parents helped them.

      And hey, we’ve had a Ford L900 as our farm truck since 1977, and it wasn’t until 2010 that I ever learned how to drive it. And it wasn’t until last summer that I discovered the joys of a split rear axle…That thing is not meant to go 65 empty down a gravel road, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t do it!

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    It’s a damned loop.

    “We won’t make any cars with manuals, because no one buys them. But no one buys cars with manuals because there aren’t any available.”

    The explanation for the dearth of row-your-own that I find most convincing is that:

    1 – Slushboxes don’t generate the same kind of expensive warranty work that manuals do, because it’s way easier to frag a clutch or a U-joint than a torque converter.

    2 – They allow the engineers to better control the engine emissions by matching the transmission shift points to the engine torque curve more precisely.

    3 – A slushbox is much more of a “sealed system,” at least according to modern manufacturing methodologies, than a manual, because of that aforementioned replaceable clutch. They can be built offsite by a subcontractor and installed as a complete unit.

    The notion that “no one is buying them” is true, in a Hobson’s Choice sort of way.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      I don’t doubt that the manufacturers prefer to sell an auto for the reasons you listed and more. But I can’t believe that a surge in demand for manual transmissions — especially in higher-profit vehicles like crossovers, pickups, and upper-trim sedans (not cars traditionally shopped by younger buyers) — wouldn’t be met with an increase in supply. This isn’t a chicken-egg thing. First people stopped buying stick, then automakers stopped putting them out.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The main reason is lack of demand. The manufacturers make less of them because if they made more they wouldn’t be able to sell them. Just ask any new car dealer how long it takes to turn an average car with a manual versus the same car with an automatic, say an Accord or a Fusion. They’re lot poison.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        Occam’s Razor. Manuals don’t sell: the market has spoken. No amount of gnashing of teeth and roaring of terrible roars from the enthusiast community is going to change this.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      With cars becoming a lot more powerful now, you don’t need a manual as much as you used to.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Some cars were intended to have sticks. Miata, Corvette, Fiesta ST, Focus ST, Mustang GT… it is sad to see the sticks continue to fall by the wayside. I can drive stick and want to test drive some of the stick shift models for my next car purchase but of course there are some compelling cars that don’t have a manual option and one of those might come out as my choice. Then I’ll feel guilty for contributing to the decline of the manual transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      All of my trucks prior to my 1988 Silverado were stick shift manuals with three on the tree. Once I bought that 1988 Silverado with the Automatic I never went back to stick shift again. Automatics just can’t be beat in gridlock traffic or for towing and hauling.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Yes but even with my truck I tow seldom and with a four speed auto that want’s to hit overdrive as fast as possible there are many times I’d like a manual just to stop the “hunting” between drive and overdrive in our mountainous terrain. Also in poor weather there are times when the transmissions hunting is the reason that I lost traction.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          There’s no option to lock out the overdrive? Do you have a ’3′ on the shift selector?

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Bumpy ii, I have and I do, I also enjoy the satisfaction of rowing my own. Although I realized most “young” people think you’re some kind of troglodyte doing manually what you could simply allow a computer to do for you.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            With limited traction, I find that a second-gear start with an auto is much easier to do and seems less destructive than the amount of clutch slipping I do with a stick.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Yeah, I’m with you on that. Only automatic I have is in my truck. Turns out that Cummins 12v Dodge 2wd regular cab pickups that haven’t been modded and/or beaten to death are uncommon with either transmission, so I took what I could find.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    You know, this manual-less future we’re rushing toward might have an interesting effect on the exotic car market.

    What if a high-end or specialty manufacturer decided to build manual-only supercars that the buyer needed something other than money to buy?

    The exclusivity of the vehicle comes not from its enormous price tag, which is passe because it’s been done to death, but rather by the fact that you can’t even drive the thing without the muscle memory and hand-eye coordination necessary to work a stick.

    People buy the car to show off that they have something others don’t – the ability to actually DRIVE.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      It’s not like learning to drive a stick is difficult or takes much practice. The few people I’ve taught to drive something with a manual transmission got it figured out in a couple of hours, max.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        People say that a lot, and I’m always a little confused by it. I’ve been driving stick for over a decade, have never owned an automatic – 3 sport bikes, a Miata, and an economy car – and still feel like I’ve far from “figured it out” in the context of what it takes to drive said supercar.

        I say this being reasonably proficient at heel-toeing (far from perfect, but I do it every day and on the track), and having been able to smoothly drive my Jetta from walking speed to highway without touching the clutch pedal.

        You guys who say you can figure out a stick in a few hours are either a lot better than me, or have a very different definition of “figuring it out.”

        • 0 avatar
          7402

          Totally agree, and I’ve been driving stick since the mid 1970s. I think it is easy to learn but difficult to master. Being able to engage the clutch from a stop without stalling is probably the easiest part–though it’s an important early milestone. The hard part is understanding and applying the complex relationship between RPM, torque, power, load, grade, economy, etc. The master understands when and why to short shift, when it’s OK to shift gears, how to heel-and-toe and why/when it’s valuable, and a myriad of other skills and variables.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            And then you step into a different vehicle, like going from an old pickup truck to a zippy little econobox to a sports car, and you have to do all the mastering all over again.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          The definition of “figuring it out” is key. As 7402 says, easy to learn, but hard to master.

          I think it only takes a couple hours to be able to safely handle a manual in traffic. However, after only having manual daily drivers for the last 15 years, I still wouldn’t call myself a master. That’s actually a significant part of why I like it.

      • 0 avatar
        onyxtape

        I tried to learn a stick in my friend’s beater truck when I was 16. I killed the clutch. Now that I think about it, I shouldn’t have done this when the truck was parked on a steep incline.

        I didn’t get a chance to drive a stick until the age of 29 when I rented an Aveo in Argentina. It took me about 30 minutes of practice on my own (without any instruction – just what I learned from video games in the 80s-90s). An hour later, I was driving in a mountainous country one-lane high up in the Andes playing chicken with the traffic going the other direction.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          I can swim and can jump in a pool and swim among Olympic swimmers, too. Doesn’t mean I’m any good at the craft.

          I’ve been in the Andes, including being a passenger in a Peruvian doctor’s manual-transmission-equipped Hyundai, and I can say with confidence that the ability to properly operate a manual transmission – or any facet of a car – is not considered necessary by the locals before hitting some of the most accident-ridden roads I’ve ever travelled.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      They already make that it’s called the Viper. FYI it’s not going well for the Viper, nor did it go well for the California.

  • avatar
    skor

    One big benefit of a manual is that a manual equipped car is less likely to be stolen. Most car thieves are young men, and most young men can no longer driver a manual. Case in point: A co-worker had a car stolen from her garage while she and her husband were on vacation. I think the car that was stolen was a Lexus, the thieves left behind a more valuable BMW. She was puzzled as to why the thieves left behind the more valuable car, and mentioned this to the policeman who took the report. The policeman looked inside the BMW, turned to the woman and said, “It’s a stick-shift.”

  • avatar

    Blame everything on young people. Excuse me, but WHAT, pray tell, is the average age of a FIAT 500 buyer, Abarth or otherwise?

    Maybe you should make the car more affordable? Maybe young people have decided that your competitors offer more value (and space) for their incredibly rare car-buying dollars?

    How incredibly stupid you must be to launch a car to sell primarily to “young people” in a time where un/deremployment runs rampant and student loans are effing due NOW. Then you insult and belittle your “target” audience. Way to go.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    IIRC the reason the Abarth was manual-only in the first place was that the “automatic” transmission on the turbo cars in Europe was a lurchy roboclutch gearbox. Maybe they’re going to use the DCT from the Dart?

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      I also read that the European automatic did not fit in the US Abarth because our version had additional structural elements to pass crash tests. As things stand, the 5 speed barely fits in our Abarth. A manual 6 (which it could really use at freeway speeds) would have meant an even bigger turning circle. You can see the transmission stick out of the driver’s side wheel well.

      Reading between the lines, I think that FCA designed a new automatic for the upcoming 1.4T Renegade (and later 500x crossover) and made sure that it also fits inside the Abarth and 500 Turbo.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Oh what a load of bollocks. The pressing issue of our time is radical wealth inequality and the deteriorating middle class caused by inflationary monetary policies that rob purchasing power. In other words young people can’t afford a new car, the auto vs manual debate is largely a tertiary issue.

  • avatar
    Dingleberrypiez_Returns

    Ah yes, manual transmissions, one of the handful of topics that gets the “B&B” trolls extra vocal. The responses are beyond predictable….

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      “Manuals are outdated and autos are now more efficient, look at the market”

      “NO! I only buy manual cars to keep the driving experience special, because I am the most special person in the world”

      “Young people don’t drive them, look at the numbers”

      “My 2002 Miata with a manual begs to differ, it is the most special car in the world. Because Europe.”

      “You’re changing the subject”

      “Let me tell you about the next vehicle I am currently in the market for and have been for the past 5 years…”

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Personally, I think that the demise of America began with the electric starter. If you can’t handcrank your own car, then what use are you to anyone?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’ve heard this before and although I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not you may have a point.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          No, I didn’t mean that at all. (If you’ve ever seen a Model T with a hand crank, then you would greatly appreciate the electric starter.)

          My own car has a manual — that was a must-have for me — but some of those who post here need to get over it.

          The manual transmission has been dying a slow death in the US for at least forty years. Blaming the millennials for that is just silly, particularly when they weren’t even born yet when this trend began — most of their parents can’t drive a stick, either.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Having crank started my dad’s old Zaporozhets 966 in Russia, it’s definitely a fun experience. Feeling the piston come up to TDC and then the moment combustion kicks off, nothing else like it. Kick starting motorcycles can also be satisfying, unless you need to get somewhere and the heatsoaked carbs aren’t getting any fuel to the cylinders, and you’re sweating in a aprking lot at the Grand Canyon, and there are a bunch of Japanese tourists taking pictures… ask me how I know.

        • 0 avatar
          raresleeper

          I personally think America went to hell in a handbasket when they quit using wood on the wheels of them damned horseless carriages.

          Because nothing suits your fancy like clipping along, gentleman, at a relatively nimble pace of 8 miles per hour, while navigating the steering tiller with one hand.

          Goodness, I almost lose my top hat!

          I had my lady with me on the previous occasion, dressed head to toe in a most Victorian of fashion. I even caught a glimpse of- *gasp*- her ankle.

          We had to stop courting. She was much to “quick” for my tastes.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Let’s not be too hard on the kidz. It’s been a long time since manuals were anything but a niche here in the US of A. I learned to drive in the 70s, so shopping for my first car meant looking at a lot of 60s and Malaise iron. Almost everything with more than four cylinders came with an automatic. I expect the only reason we saw fewer 4-banger automatics was that the slushbox significantly reduced the already anemic performance while also dragging down mpg. Today’s motors and trannies are orders of magnitude better, so there’s little justification for a stick other than “I want one”.

    The last two cars I bought came with 3 pedals, and while saving $1000 certainly appealed to the cheap bastard in me, that wasn’t a huge factor.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Maybe young people need to stop playing on Facebook and Twitter and get out there and actually learn how to do something contructive, like drive a manual shifting transmission.

    Meh. I forget who we’re dealing with.

    I mean, the first sentence of my comment is probably a source of frustration for them, so…bring on the granny shifters!

    Let’s just give them all handicap mirror markers, too, so they don’t have to walk too far in the parking lot. Awwww….. those poor “young people”….

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      This is merely a symptom of the fact civilization is dooooooooooommmmeeeedddd.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
      –not Socrates, but may as well be for how old it is.

      Not sure if trolling, etc., etc.

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        Hot damn. That quote is spot on!

        Lol

        Now all we need is an argumentative spokesperson for Generation Z to tell us “how bad it really is”…

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          Generation Z? Would that be 1993? Yes, things aren’t so hot for us right now, but time spent whining about the circumstances, by any one generation regarding any other generation, would be better spent working to improve one’s circumstances. Boomers, stop whining about Millennials. Millennials, stop blaming the boomers. Be like my German/Scandinavian immigrant ancestors, who quietly worked themselves to death at 60 and probably lost a kid or two along the way, just so their kids could have heat and food all winter, and their descendants could complain that modern conveniences lead to laziness.

          No vitriol is contained in the preceding comment.

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    Forget the automatic. It’s the dealers. My wife and I really wanted an Abarth and went to the only local dealer several times and drove the car. I had a ford Ranger to trade and did my research on line. When it came time to deal, the sales manager, a really obnoxious young guy, offered me 2K less than the KBB offer. I presented him with my printout and he said it was wrong. His printout was a faked KBB report (no logo, nothing but “Kelly Blue Book” printed on the top center). Of course I walked away. Ultimately, I traded at a Subaru dealer for a 7 year old Mini Cooper S with 57k miles, but loaded and in good health as certified by the area Mini dealer. And the Subie dealer gave me the KBB price for the truck. All in all, I think the Fiat dealer did me a huge favor!

  • avatar
    koreancowboy

    This opens this up as a possible DD/toy car for me. Whenever I’m considering my next ride, I have to take my wife into consideration, or someone that doesn’t know how to drive a manual.

    Moreover, buy the time I buy, we will most likely have a baby or two…so I feel like she’ll have her hands full with that as it is.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Of course they don’t – there is no reason to! Duh. Their parents don’t, rental cars are autos, and young people don’t really buy Abort. They buy something that can fit a human’s needs.

    I mean, the thing sounds really awesome revving the engine at the curb, all 160 hp of its non-ricer fartiness, but sitting in it is a frigging punishment.

  • avatar
    Pebble

    I tried to learn to drive a stick when I was 16, and failed miserably. Now, at 50, it occurs to me that it might make sense to try again. Should I buy some old manual beater and practice on it until the clutch falls out?

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      Just buy one, Pebble.

      You’ll find that if you have no choice but to drive the thing, you’ll figure it out, and pretty damned quick, too.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        +1. Buy the car you want to drive. Even if you need to replace the clutch, that’s less money than a usable beater would cost, and a beater with a blown clutch is worth scrap value.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      The thing that fails clutches is heat. Most of the heat generated is while you’re slipping the clutch when starting from a standing stop. If you have to do this a number of times in a row before you get the basic hang of it, either stop driving the car or head out on a road where you don’t have to do many standing starts so it can cool.

      Odds are you’ll be fine on the clutch that comes with the car. I’ve taught a number of people on my latest car, and the clutch is going strong at 128,000 miles.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Check Click’n’Clack’s web site for hints. They have mentioned learning how to drive a manual on the radio show.

  • avatar
    George B

    Having a torque converter between the engine and the rest of the drivetrain is good when traffic forces lots of stop and crawl forward driving with the engine near idle. Hard to enjoy a manual transmission without an open road. Maybe the Fiat 500 is primarily a city car in the US and automatics are better suited to city driving.

    I wonder automakers limit profits by putting manual transmissions in the wrong cars for the US market. Seems to me that they could make more by putting the manual transmission in a mid-level trim car with the more powerful engine and selling for the same or higher price than the automatic version instead of selling the manual for a discount on the lowest trim level with the least powerful engine. Sell the manual as a performance option instead of as a cheapskate option. And Honda, I bet the people like Jack who go to the trouble of finding a manual transmission higher trim car would also pay for an actual color option like maybe red instead of just a few grayscale options.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I recently bought a plug in hybrid, for slow traffic it can’t be beat. The accelerator response is much more linear than a car with a conventional automatic, and it’s ultra smooth at low speeds where there is no road noise or vibration.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    Perfect. The Abarth now shoots to the top of the list for when I replace my ’08 Speed3.

    While I love manuals, my significant other doesn’t. An automatic transmission is the only criteria Next Car must meet, so I guess I’m getting off fairly easy (no crossover or minivan!).

    And I totally get it. When you live in San Francisco, bumper-to-bumper parallel parking on a 25 degree incline is a bitch. Same to stop and go traffic on said inclines.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Many manuals have a hill holder feature. And there is of course the parking brake.

      I do get it though – parallel parking on some of SF’s inclines is a pain in any car. I think SF is an extremely hostile city for car ownership with lack of parking, likely bumper damage if you do find a spot, vandalism, and of course traffic. I would definitely have a beater if I lived in the city and had to own a car.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    A few of us “young people” are car enthusiasts – we drive stick. And we’re probably the only ones who’d consider an Abarth. Who else would? I guess we’ll find out – it’ll be interesting to see.

  • avatar
    7402

    This is hardly new. During the 1970s when I was in high school (in car-conscious southern California) almost all the cars in the school lot had automatic transmissions. They were typically American brands with V8s and that’s how the kids’ parents bought them during the sixties and seventies.

    Then there was the enthusiast crowd, which was mostly guys who were into British sports cars (MGs, Triumphs, etc.), the Volkswagen crowd, and the guys lucky enough to score a Datsun 510. It was also the height of the mini-pickup rage, so most of the guys with Datsuns, Toyotas, and the infamous Chevy Luv, had manual transmissions. Still, even then stick shifters were a minority. Hell, even the muscle-car, drag racer types had figured out that automatic transmissions meant better quarter-mile times for all except the most skilled.

    I think the stick-shift was pretty much buried in the USA 30 years ago. But, yeah, 4/5 of the cars in our family fleet have manuals, and we sure as hell made the kids learn. Do your teenager a favor and teach them. It’s instant street cred.

  • avatar
    Charliej

    As an old guy, I can tell you that the average American driver was buying automatic transmissions instead of manuals back in the fifties. My parents, both of whom learned to drive in the thirties, preferred auto over manual from the time that they could afford to do so. Back in the days when there were no auto transmissions, most people did a very poor job of driving. I can remember my grandfather taking off in low, and when he got to ten MPH, shifting directly into high. The car would buck and jump, until the speed got high enough for the engine to smooth out. For the average American driver, automatics were a Godsend. Myself, I always liked a manual transmission car. My wife learned to drive in a Mini, stick shift, no automatic available. She and I still like manual transmission vehicles. However, at our advanced age, we drive an automatic. A manual would be fine for driving in our small town, but when we go to Guadalajara, with it’s 4.5 million people, an automatic is nice. Being retired, we have one car. That car has to do it all, so automatic it is. If I hit the lottery, a new Miata would be in the carport, but one car would still be an automatic, for the traffic in Guad.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      It also tells everyone you’ve got it made; that you can afford a big ol’ Buick with all the modern conveniences and none of that awful, tiring shift nonsense like in a big, loud, ugly, smelly cargo truck.
      Plus, America is a country made for big cars with big engines, quiet cabins, floaty rides, and easy-shifting autos, with wide, flat expanses of road and easy curves that connect ever-expanding, stretched-out suburbs. Who needs “peppy” when you’ve got 400 hp? Who needs “fuel-saving” when you’ve got gas for a quarter?

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      I’m getting on too. I agree that US cars went automatic in the 1950s, and besides prestige there was a practical reason. Detroit spent about half-an-hour designing the manual shift linkage. Those things were downright horrible to drive.

      The first manual US car I drove was a ’59 Chev six with three on the tree. Low to second you had to lean forward to complete the shift. Terrible, slow, clunky. Exactly zero time spent on engineering a decent shift. No wonder most folk plunked out a hundred bucks for Powerglide.

      Compare this to a VW, which had a much better floor shift, or any of the British cars. Some of them had column shift too in the 1950s like the Peugeot 403, but they were a snap to shift, and fun.

      Just like leaving blank holes in the dash to show you bought the cheapskate version, rotten gearchanges made you buy the automatic. All part of selling a more expensive car.

      And now 50 years later shifting for yourself has been elevated to an art form without regard to the quality of the shifter. I purchased two Subaru automatics in a row because there was no way I was going to subject myself to the torture of manually shifting those pieces of crap design for years on end.

      But a mid thirties business acquaintance just leased a manual Mazda3. Drove it for the second time today and really like that car. It’s all in the execution of seating position, shift lever position and action, plus clutch takeup. Plus of course, I’m in Canada and it’s easy to find manuals and people don’t seem so scared of them as if they were some sort of weird boodoo.

      All the rest of the carping about manual versus auto is neither here nor there unless you take into account the quality of the manual.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      My father, born in 1924, learned to drive on a Model T. He drove delivery trucks without synchros (double clutching between every shift), Jeeps in the Army, and a variety of manual transmission cars until he got a 1958 Bel Air. After that, it was nothing but automatics, 1962 Buick Special, 1968 Ford Mustang, 1977 Chevy Caprice, and his last car, a 1989 Cadillac Sedan deVille. When I asked him once back in the 80s why he no longer purchased manual transmissions cars, he looked at me incredulously and said, “Why in the world would I want to shift a car myself when it can do it for me?”

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I’m born the tail end of the baby boom but my younger post-boomer sister has always owned and driven stick shift cars and has till this day. Over the years she has owned a 77 Corolla, 80 Civic, 81 Escort, 81 Celica and 85 Accord all with sticks. Currently she resides in an urban area and has a car share account but occasional borrows a friends stick shift vehicle. What’s with these millennial’s, Gen X or Echo boomers? “Oh Muffy what’s that extra pedal for” “Does it work like dad’s Porsche with those lever things on the sides of the wheel”. A little auto history along with civics is necessary or better yet bring back the draft, then everyone will learn to drive stick on a mil spec Jeep.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Sorry–all modern military vehicles are automatic now. Source: my gearhead cousin in the Guards, so take that as you will.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        “Sorry–all modern military vehicles are automatic now.”

        I’ll add Jeeps haven’t been used by the U.S. military for many, many moons. I joined the Marine Corps reserves before going to college. After a transfer I ended up at a Motor Transport Unit. The HumVee is arguably the poster child for military land vehicles and yes, it’s an automatic. In fact, of all the vehicles we had the only manuals were the old M813 deuce and a half. Its replacement, which we also had, the M923 was an auto.

  • avatar
    Zombo

    Does it really matter what kind of trans a Hello Kitty looking car like that has anyway ? I say good that driving a manual is becoming a lost art for the young and dumb . Much less chance of my vehicles getting stolen !

  • avatar
    doublechili

    This is a story only because of the exec’s comment about young people not driving MTs. The fact is that we’re talking about a car that IS available as a MT, just now not MT-only. Big deal. The real story is all the cars that used to be available as MTs but no longer are. Like BMWs – hate them even more now (but they have telepathic handling!). And the upcoming Acura TL which is dropping one of the best MTs out there. And other high-performance “enthusiast” models that are coming down the pike with autos only.

    It’s not the “fault” of current young people. Driving an MT just happens to be “hard” and not necessary, so over the years the number of MT drivers has dwindled. But the fact is, if you can drive an MT you are a more complete driver than someone who can’t. I know that sounds harsh, but that viewpoint has to get out there or MTs will die eventually. I hate the luxury “performance” car ads where some cool dude with sunglasses and the requisite razor stubble confidently and resolutely “shifts” his AT. Dude, you ain’t shifting – you’re pretending.

    I happened to be given a car with a MT as a teen, and MT is all I’ve been driving for 35 years. My parents both drove MTs when they were young because there was nothing else, so to them it was what I needed to do. I had a tough week or two learning, and then one night it just kind of came to me. Perfecting it took a long time, but I was competent/confident in relatively short order. Do yourself a favor and buy one for your next car.

    As for the economic argument, I’m not sure where that comes from. MTs are cheaper than ATs when new. And if you’re buying a used car, chances are they will be even cheaper. Find a used MT in a bad color for a good price.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    The death of the manual transmission is yet another example of human beings wanting to have their cake and eat it too.

    People like the freedom that a car provides, but they don’t want to be troubled with any of the responsibility of owning a car – things like maintenance, paying for gas or learning how to operate one properly.

    The same is true of voting. People want the power to vote, but don’t want to be bothered to keep themselves informed so they can do an intelligent job of it.

  • avatar
    justacommodity

    what a waste of a good car. i only signed up to leave this comment for some young person who might be foolish enough to buy such a adomination. LEARN TO DRIVE! it will be so rewarding, much more rewarding than what is essentially buying a designer handbag if you buy a car you don’t actually have to drive.


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