By on June 8, 2021

BoJack/Shutterstock.com

Over the weekend, I had a conversation with a friend about manual transmissions. My friend is one of the few non-auto-journo folks I know who drives a vehicle with three pedals, and he made a comment about the slow death of the stick shift, especially as cars increasingly become electric, or at least electrified.

I pushed back gently, suggesting that there will also be a market, perhaps quite small but a market nonetheless, for internal-combustion engine vehicles, even after the market flips in favor of EVs. Unless the ICE is outright banned, of course. I also believe there will be a market for sports cars with hybrid and EV setups, and some might be able to offer manuals. Either way, I figure that as long as some car enthusiasts demand sports cars, including those with manuals, and as long as automakers won’t take too much of a hit to the bottom line to produce such cars, there will be a market.

What I am not sure about, though, is how many enthusiasts there will be, and how vocal they will be about keeping the flame of the “enthusiast” car alive.

This may sound like the usual worries about the younger generations not being as into cars as their forebears, but it isn’t — I think there’s enough evidence that suggests the youths still like to play with cars out there, even if my own non-automotive-media social circles don’t contain many car people: Off top of head, I can only think of a handful of friends/family who are into cars, and only two or three don’t have some professional or personal connection to one part or another of the automotive industry.

But I do wonder if today’s enthusiasts might have different priorities than asking for hot performance cars — even ones with more environmentally friendly powertrains — and how that might change things.

For example, I am just barely old enough to vaguely remember the revolt that Ford set off when it planned to make the Mustang front-wheel drive. Ford heard the voices of the faithful, backed down, and kept the Mustang rear-drive while producing the Probe as a front-drive sportster. Would that happen today if Ford decided to make a huge change to the Mustang that would almost certainly hurt performance and/or make the car radically different from what it has traditionally been?

I’m not talking about the Mach-E, here — that’s a separate car that shares the name. Nor am I necessarily talking about an EV powertrain — an instant-torque EV Mustang might be pretty awesome. But what if Ford decided to drop the manual? Make the car front-drive? Or drop the V8 (that one might not be totally bad, given the EcoBoost’s power numbers, but still…)? Would the enthusiast crowd stand up, and if so, would their crowing be enough to stop Ford from such hypothetical changes?

I mean, BMW and other marques that sell performance/luxury cars have been reducing the number of sporty cars available with manual transmissions and the backlash hasn’t been all that fierce.

This isn’t a post to debate the pros/cons of manuals. That can be done elsewhere. Rather, my conversation about manuals and sports cars led to a jumping-off point, and now I am wondering — what does today’s car enthusiast want? Does he/she/they have the same power over OEMs that enthusiasts apparently once did? Or do harsh market realities mean more than what enthusiasts want — even if car people will put their money where their mouth is?

I remember buff books worrying that the market was going to kill off “driver’s cars” back in the ’90s, thanks to the proliferation of vanilla mid-size sedans and the slow decline of the stick-shift. Now the crossover craze fuels concerns. But the truth is this: For a very long time, perhaps going back to the beginning of the automobile, the “fun” cars were almost certainly always a small part of the market. We remember the cool ones from the ’50s and ’60s, but we forget the boring ones that were relegated to history — unless, of course, they provided the underpinnings of a muscle car.

So, I don’t want to go down that road. Instead of asking you if car enthusiasts still exist in large numbers and will continue to do so — they do and I think they will — I want to know if the future enthusiast can fight back against market forces (and, perhaps, regulations) that might end the fun.

Sound off below.

[Image: BoJack/Shutterstock.com]

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103 Comments on “QOTD: Remaining Enthusiastic?...”


  • avatar
    4runner

    I think a proper analogy for ICE vehicles versus electric vehicles would be mechanical watches versus quartz watches.

    Quartz watches are cheap, reliable, and very accurate. The cheapest Casio will keep more accurate time than the most expensive Rolex and will are more reliable. (Rolex owners – don’t be offended – just accept it.)

    Mechanical watches are more expensive, not very accurate (even COSC watches), need routine service by an expert technician every so often, etc. Nevertheless, mechanical watches are still sold and made in great numbers and command the highest prices. Purists think that mechanical watches have more of a soul than a quartz watch and the mechanical undulations are its heartbeat.

    I get the feeling in less than a generation automotive purists will view ICE cars with/without manual transmissions similar to mechanical watches. Purists will say things like “my gas powered vehicle has a heartbeat and when I press the accelerator, I hear it breathe and unleash a roar. When I drive it, I am connected to it and it is connected to me”

    • 0 avatar
      FerrariLaFerrariFace

      I think a better analogy is what happened to horses when the automobile arrived. It’s pretty rare these days to use a horse for basic transportation or work these days (unless you’re Amish, I guess). But there are still horse enthusiasts out there (and Amish) who ride them for fun or for sport. I think the same will happen with ICE and sports car ownership. There will also eventually be sporty EVs, even “cheap” sporty, Miata-like EVs. We’ll love them for different reasons, customize them and soup them up in different ways than we do with ICE cars, but they’ll be there.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Another analogy is paintings/drawings vs. film photography vs. digital photography. They all have their place and the newer technologies haven’t totally destroyed their predecessors.

        For me, it depends. I like EVs for the instant response and the g-forces you experience. I do like vintage ICE vehicles, but wouldn’t want one for a daily driver. I like manual transmissions, but only for underpowered vehicles where they are actually useful. When a manual becomes a handicap and kills performance in a modern vehicle, its annoying. Some people are so so bad at shifting them. Like the time an M car was trying and barely out accelerating my slow-moving Leaf. Every time the guy shifted, he’d take so long he’d lose a car length. Where I love a manual is in an ancient low-powered vehicle on twisty hilly terrain where your shifting skills are needed to keep the thing going.

        EV tuning and hotrodding hase definitely started. Plenty of stuff on youtube. Even Tesla has finally recognized one of the tuners, Unplugged Performance. Other tuners are doing everything from swapping older/half dead leaf batteries for newer cells and dropping tesla drivertrains into kit cars.

        http://www.factoryfive.com/whats-new/factory-five-bev-818-runs-9-8-seconds-129-6-mph/

    • 0 avatar
      tomLU86

      @4Runner

      Excellent analogy, very apt!

      For all the professions of loyalty from “purists” (and I like to think of myself as one of them), money talks, BS walks.

      If there were enough “enthusiast buyers”, or even budget -minded, both in numbers and in depth of conviction, we would still have manual trans Hondas, Toyota/Nissan 4-cyl RWD pick-ups, and 3-series (to pick some cars that one used to associate with manual trans).

      It costs a lot to do the emissions certification in the US (and/or Canada). It add manufacturing variation, and hence cost, to the manufacturer (yes, a manual with a clutch less expensive. But the cost automatics on a per unit basis is less than the cost of automatic trans cars when they are mixed in with manuals).

      Key words: COST. MONEY. As in money talks, BS, walks.

      Most Americans want automatics. Very, very few will insist on a manual.

      As fewer people than ever, even know how to drive a manual trans, it makes less business sense to offer them.

      This was before EVs.

      The newest Car & Driver illustrates my point. They make the obligatory comments that “a manual would be nice” to show they are still “Drivers” but then go on to rave about how perfect the automatics are in their GTI and Porsche. After all, they must do the bidding of their advertisers….

      Pretty soon, C/D will rave that “it’s a ‘real automatic’, not a CVT”.

      That’s where we are at. Not enough of us (I include myself), for whatever reason, bought manuals, so they are gone.

      At least we have Rolex and Omega watches. Cars may not be that lucky. Ferrari doesn’t have manuals, we will see if Porsche holds out. If you can’t afford a Porsche, you won’t be driving a manual pretty soon.

      Who offers manuals now? Camaros/Mustangs/Challengers (all with dropping sales and numbered days…), high-end 3-series, Porsches, Tacoma V6 pick-ups (talk about highway robbery! But that’s the only game in town for a manual trans pick-up). I think that says it all.

      • 0 avatar
        FerrariLaFerrariFace

        @tom:
        For the record, manual Hondas DO still exist. Or at least they will when the next Civic Si and R become available. Those have been confirmed to be manual only. Count that as a rare win for the good guys.
        https://www.roadandtrack.com/news/a36447259/2022-honda-civic-si-type-r-manual-confirmed/

        • 0 avatar
          tomLU86

          @Ferrari

          I exaggerated the dearth of manuals. There are more (scroll to bottom). Like I can get a manual Jetta.

          The Civic Si costs a lot more than a Civic. I can’t get a base Civic.

          In the 70s and 80s as a teen, I’d read the car magazines praises of “slick-shifting Hondas and Toyotas”–and Hondas were FWD!

          That these cars’ manual trans felt as good, often better, than BMW/Porsche/Saab/VW/Audi, let alone the (then fading) mainstream American cars, these slick shifters contributed to Honda and Toyota reputation and sales.

          So I find it ironic that I can not longer get a basic Honda Civic with manual. Maybe I can get a Fit manual? It looks better, and is more “Honda-like” in my mind.

          My last new manual car was a Cobalt SS Superchrged. I liked the drivetrain–it was terrific, the gear ratios, the precision of the shifter (best ever? Probably not. Excellent? Absolutely), the take-up of the clutch. 5 years earlier I leased a Saab 9-3 manual–decent shifter and clutch, but subjectively didn’t “feel” nearly as good as the Cobalt, or even my 86 VW GTI. Better than my first car though–a Ford Fairmont 4-speed–which had a very good shifter, not quite as good as Toyota, but also a huge gap between 1st and 2nd, and an on/off clutch.

          I won’t be getting any new cars any more. Perhaps a new ICE pickup, while we still can.

    • 0 avatar
      cliff731

      Automatic watches are never gonna go away. No batteries ever needed there.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Nice analogies and I think that @4Runner pretty much nailed it.

        We might also make a comparison to ‘recorded’ music formats. There are still some who collect and listen to 8-Tracks. And vinyl is still preferred by enthusiasts. But digital/electronic is what the market has migrated to.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Which is a great example. Downloads trade off sound quality, sometimes horribly. But they offer immediate access to a huge variety of music, and they take up no physical space. But preferences change. I straddle both worlds – I have analogue records and downloads. And two cars with sticks. The question is what drives the market. I do believe dealers have steered the market more in favor of automatics because even in the best of times, automatics were preferred by a larger segment of the population. So they stock them because they sell easier. To counter the “they stock only what sells” mindset, consider this: When C7 Corvettes first came out, most of the first year model run was ordered by buyers, not dealers. That first year saw a take rate for the manual knocking on 40% – certainly a sustainable business case. As the years went by, most C7s were ordered by dealers and the take rate plummeted. Can the enthusiasts make a difference? Well, didn’t Porsche bring back manuals as an option on the 911 after a period of PDK only?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @cliff731

        I’m wearing mine.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      I assume ICE’s are the cheap ones, then? As well as the ones who run fpr a few years on a fill up, rather than having to be shake and rewound every mile or two…..

      EVs are great. The B many insist on affixing in at the front of EV, simply renders the current crop of them a permanent “soon to come” flying car, for a lot of uses. Drop dependence on the B, and you’re getting somewhere more universal.

      But like most else genuinely useful, that requires lots of actual smart, productive people doing actual hard work. Not just illiterate yahoos inveesting, banning, mandating and otherwise acting like the dimwitted yahoos they invariably are.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      You will own nothing – and you will be happy. You are so commanded.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    I am much less optimistic than I was even a year ago.

    I held fast to an “It can’t happen here” mindset regarding EV mandates in this country. Now states are tripping over themselves to ban ICEs on a time scale I can’t believe.

    The only hope I think enthusiasts have is that the bans overreach themselves, expose the inability of EVs to replace all vehicle segments (HD trucks especially) and the American consumer rises up and pushes back.

    Unfortunately, I see no evidence of that happening, and I fear that we are going to be forced into an inferior standard of automotive product.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      I agree with jack4x completely. Moreover, I think the lack of interesting vehicles going forward will fit perfectly with the joyless world that’s already arriving. It’s a world in which the definition of legal – or at least socially acceptable – activity keeps narrowing and virtue signaling is all important.

    • 0 avatar
      4runner

      My thinking is that the best we can hope that is something similar to the antique firearm and/or muzzleloading exception. Perhaps vehicles manufactured before a certain date or manufactured in small enough numbers will not be subject to EV requirements. Again, it’s just a hope.

      • 0 avatar
        Kendahl

        If you want, you can buy a Beck 550 Spyder. It’s a well done copy of Porsche’s 550 race car from the mid 1950s that’s street legal. The major differences in the copy are a fiberglass body instead of aluminum, a 2.1 liter Type 1 VW engine instead of a 1.5 liter with overhead cams, and front disc brakes instead of drums. Like the original, the copy weighs 1,300 pounds and makes 125 horsepower so it’s not slow. The only electric components are ignition and lights. Brakes and steering are unpowered. It’s available in various stages of completion up to ready to drive. Beck has been making them for forty years. They must not be lacking for customers since current lead time for a new one is more than two years.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      #Resist

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Give batteries about 5 more years and you’ll see battery-powered HD trucks that can do things diesel ones could never dream of. The hotshotters will still make better time with diesel, but the recreational tower of a monster travel trailer or large boat will love an EV truck that can straighten out a wobble by judiciously applying forward and backward torque to individual wheels.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        As always, I’m less impressed by trickery like that, and more impressed by the fact that I can currently add hundreds of miles of range (even towing range) in 5-10 minutes.

        For some people, that won’t matter. If they camp or tow close to home, maybe 100ish miles of range is enough. But it’s telling that Ford won’t release any towing range numbers for the Lightning. I expect it will be bad, worse even than people expect.

        I’ve also been hearing about big new battery breakthroughs being 5 years away for 15 years now, so I’m solidly in the “trust but verify” stage.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Expect 300 miles of towing range before too long. One thing about a heavy HD truck is that it will be relatively unaffected by a heavy battery. As batteries get denser and cheaper per kWh, we’ll start to see some truly gargantuan batteries (200+ kWh) in electric trucks.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          “I’ve also been hearing about big new battery breakthroughs being 5 years away for 15 years now”

          That’s definitely not the truth. Battery densities have in fact been increasing for one thing. We started with about 140 Wh/kg with the original Leaf battery, Model 3 batteries progressed to 260 Wh/kg, now 4680 cells that are in pilot production in Fremont are 380 Wh/kg. The 4680 cell factory for mass production of 4680’s is being finished outside of Austin.

          On the solid-state front, Solid Power and QuantumScape have pilot lines running now and Toyota is working out production issues for their solid-state battery.

          For even further to the future, Natron just started low volume commercial production of its sodium-ion battery. While it doesn’t have the density for EVs yet, they are making improvements and may get density good enough for low end vehicles in the next couple of years. Right now, the target customers are utilities and data centers for backup purposes.

          Lithium-Iron Phosphate batteries that eliminate cobalt and nickel are now in production and you can get them in low end Chinese produced Model 3s today. We may see them here as well due to nickel shortages.

          So, the battery makers are giving us everything we expected and at a good pace. The toughest part is getting something hand assembled in a lab into mass production. That takes years sometimes. You have to build and design the machines that make them and build the factories. It takes time. I do agree with the trust but verify part, but once I see pilot production, I feel confident. I think the expectation has been that we’d see solid-state batteries by 2025 and I think we’re on track for that. Maybe even by 2024.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Car companies will make what is profitable to make. As long as there is enough demand for RWD manual transmissions they will make them. When that demand dries up you can say good-bye forever. That’s the way stuff works

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I have a 19 year old daughter that has yet to learn the joys of a manual in a 4 wheel vehicle (she rides dirt bikes) since she was not on the insurance for the Cobra in her HS years. The car she dreams of, however, does not come with a manual transmission but it is the fastest mass produced sedan in the world and she would get her Hellcat Charger in blue or black.

    The boy, 11, was trying to explain to my wife how to drive a manual when she informed him she already knows how. His dream car is a yellow Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with a body colored freedom top. He is not sure which engine now though as he seems to think the diesel would be the better engine off road.

    Both kids would get a Lamborghini in their dream world. His would be red, hers would be purple.

    For me, fast and fun aren’t always the same thing. I would rather drive a manual Miata over a manumatic/DSG/flappy paddle shifter Supra/Z4/whatever any day I am not racing for money. If I were racing for money I would take any performance advantage I could get and put fun secondary.

    If I did not have the Cobra replica I would have a Viper since they came with a proper manual.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    A car can be fun to drive without having extreme limits. The expression that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast is true. Good steering feedback, linear throttle response, linear brakes with excellent feedback – all contribute to a fun driving experience – even without a manual transmission. I have two cars, both have manuals, and while I don’t like conventional automatics that constantly hunt and have too many gears, I do like good CVT’s and hybrid powertrains with their more linear response. I don’t think anyone will mourn the death of the stick shift. It will go out with a whimper.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    A car can be fun to drive without having extreme limits. The expression that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast is true. Good steering feedback, linear throttle response, linear brakes with excellent feedback – all contribute to a fun driving experience – even without a manual transmission. I have two cars, both have manuals, and while I don’t like conventional automatics that constantly hunt and have too many gears, I do like good CVT’s and hybrid powertrains with their more linear response. I don’t think anyone will mourn the death of the stick shift. It will go out with a whimper.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Manuals are dead. The niche market will be served by people holding onto older vehicles. And I say this as someone who owns a manual sports car (C7 Z51). I’ve had a manual in my driveway since my first car back in ’89. When offered a choice I’ve always picked a manual aside from the truck since I didn’t want to deal with trying to slip the clutch at a boat ramp. So I did my part to “save the manuals” but the war is basically over… we lost. The manual choices will continue to disappear each year until there is none left. I give it another 10 to 20 years tops.

    Some manuals will go away when various sports car choices are replaced by EVs. I figure the Miata will be the last straw, when that car goes away the manual will die with it. I was pleased to see the new 400Z comes with a manual so a few companies are trying to keep it alive. With the C8 going DCT its clear there is a divide between serious (read: expensive) sports cars and sporty cars. The high end of the market has reached a point where a manual just can’t keep up with the engine tech, via the insane speed or hybrid tech.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      “With the C8 going DCT its clear there is a divide between serious (read: expensive) sports cars and sporty cars.”

      A fascinating counterpoint to this is Porsche caving to customer demand and bringing the manual back to the GT3. The Miata may not be the last stick shift available, it may be some expensive car whose customers are willing to pay enough extra to compensate for the development cost.

  • avatar
    ajla

    0. I’ve always been of the belief that “vehicle enthusiast” is a state of mind not necessarily what is in your driveway.

    1. I don’t think BEVs will kill automotive enthusiasm outright, but I do think ICE and manuals will become the realm of classic cars while I’m still above ground.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Enthusiasts exist. Will they win – probably not.
    I have 4 cars. 3 MT, 1 Auto
    I did my part.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I’m hoping for a few more years before I need to part with my Manual shift 05 Mustang GT..The convertible top attracts a wide range of potential buyers..The stick shift cuts the buyer pool by 50 percent.. Back in 2018 I was 3rd on the list to buy it. Wifey had overruled both buyers when the salesman called me ..The Ford dealer actually asked the one couple “to please take their domestic issues outside”..Seems she couldn’t drive it home on the occasions when hubby got bombed !!

    That being said. The other 50 percent are enthusiasts, that wouldn’t entertain the thought of buying such a vehicle equipped with an automatic ..

    When the time comes I don’t think I’ll have a problem selling it.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Remember that you and I are not the customers of car manufacturers – car dealers are their customers.

    In Las Vegas, dealers simply do not stock low-end cars with manual transmissions. Of the 4 lowest-priced cars that *could* be had with a manual transmission – Mirage, Spark, Accent, Versa – the first 3 don’t exist with manuals on car lots in Vegas, and there are TWO Nissan Versas available.

    If their customers (again, car dealers) don’t buy them, manufacturers won’t build them.

    edit: I expanded the search on cars.com to all new cars under $40k in Las Vegas with manuals, and that brings the total to SIX cars – 2 Versas, a Jetta, 2 Corollas (1 hatch, 1 sedan), and a single Kia Forte GT. The end is nigh.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    There are a lot more manual trans offering than I realized.

    Still, the end is nigh. They are hard to find.

    Automatics are more in demand and more profitable.

    In the book “Bowling Alone”, author/professor Robert Putnam cites studies that showed that a typical US high school graduate in 1948 (my father’s era) was more knowledgeable (I don’t recall by what criteria–I finished HS in the 1980s, perhaps I prove his point, lol), than a US HS grad 50-years late.

    My analogy is that the limitations of cars in 1950 mean that a US driver from the 1950s was an innately better driver than one than 30 years later, after the widespread adoption of automatic trans and power steering and brakes, who in turn was better than one 30 years later, with the widespread use of better radial tires, anti-lock brakes, and stability control.

    So, tell us, why do we need manual transmissions again?

    Maybe as a theft deterrent?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The “manual or not manual” debate is quite relevant for me, as I’m shopping two cars – a VW GTI and Jetta GLI – that offer both options, and both options have their charms.

    But this also illustrates why manuals are becoming a tough sell – the automatic in either of these cars is so good that it actually adds something to the driving experience. Ditto for the excellent 10-speed in the Accord Sport 2.0T. Even the CVT in the Accord Sport 1.5T was acceptable.

    Used to be that you pretty much had to go with a manual to get the most out of your car; that’s simply untrue now.

    So…if manufacturers want to put more folks in manuals, maybe they should stop making automatics so damn good.

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      Manufacturers DON’T want to put more folks in manuals. Automatic transmissions raise transaction prices by $1500 to $2500 in most cases. Dropping a manual option from a trim is instant profit since John and Joan Q. Public would rather have ways of distracting themselves from driving (bigger and more screens with all the things, cars which do the “driving” for you) than buy a vehicle which is itself enjoyable to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I’ll be honest: as much as I enjoyed having manuals – and one car aside, that’s all I had from 1979 to 2018 – they’re a pain in the a** in traffic, and since traffic is getting worse, for me, that’s the key reason not to buy one. My A3 has a terrific Tiptronic DCT, and that seems to be a good compromise – far easier to use in traffic, but it’s quite engaging to use when you’re driving quickly as well. Because it shifts faster than I can, it also makes the car quicker. I don’t really see this as a step backwards.

        I think traffic also helps explain why we’re seeing such an emphasis on infotainment – it’s something to play with when you’re in a bumper to bumper jam looking at the a** end of a CR-V.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Toyota is not the company most look to for saving the manuals, but the Corolla hatchback rev matches on up and downshifts. I haven’t driven it, but I expect that to make it more tolerable in traffic and drastically lower the learning curve for anyone who wants to try a manual, but is intimidated.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      That’s the “problem” with VW and Porsche. They build cars that are fun to drive, and they’d be good with a manual, but the dual clutch you can get is so good it’s hard to turn down.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      It doesn’t help that VW used taller gearing in the manual. Takes some of the fun out of it when you barely have to shift, and it’s another factor making the manual a bit slower.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I’m over 70, so my opinion doesn’t count much. I will say that we had manuals in all of our family vehicles . . . until they weren’t available. For me the satisfaction of being enthusiast is not the raw speed achieved by the car, but the sense of mastery in being able to merge with the machine to reach its potential. However, for the last 20 years, the trend has been to have the machine relieve the driver of the need for this mastery. The apotheosis of that is so-called “self-driving” cars; the first sign of that is an automatic transmission.

    My prediction is that after the novelty of instant torque wears off, EVs are just going to be a snooze fest, no matter how fast or quick.

    As for me, my last manual was a Z3, which I sold in 2015. If I bought another sports car, it would be a manual . . . full stop.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Enthusiasts can’t be relied on to make things change or, in this case, stay the same. If they could be, we wouldn’t have the 25 year import ban anymore.
    Cheap convertibles are dead, 2 door trucks are dead, 2 door cars from non-luxury brands are all but dead (aside from the pony cars), V8s in cars are dead, manuals are nearly gone.
    Manufacturers figured out that people will buy whatever they build so they stopped making niche cars and focused only on what sells the most units. We should applaud Toyota and Subaru for making the twins, and appreciate Mazda for keeping the Miata around when the big 3 decided to stop selling cars all together (but for the pony cars).

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Well cheap anything is dead, though if you mean ‘verts from more plebian marques Camaro and Mustang are still available.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        I’m talking about *cheap* like the Geo Metro convertible, the Chevy Cavalier, Dodge Shadow, Toyota Celica.
        I think inflation brings those more in line with the Camaro and Mustang base models of today, but there’s no Kia Forte or Nissan Sentra convertible, or … heck, there are no more small cheap cars. You’re right.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      “Manufacturers figured out that people will buy whatever they build so they stopped making niche cars and focused only on what sells the most units.”

      This seems to be accurate. And as soon as the tide swung away from manuals the more OEMs aligned with that mission. If the user take on manuals is low and your competition doesn’t offer them then why should your brand have that choice? Typical snowball effect, a few stopped, then some more and pretty soon we are at nearly zero.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “I want to know if the future enthusiast can fight back against market forces”

    No. Market forces are mostly governed by what people buy, and people don’t want manuals. Manuals have been disappearing for 80 years. Until they were bolted to 4-cylinder malaise cars, they were always a welcomed upgrade.

    “Enthusiast” = what is that?
    a) Can drive a manual: My grandmother-in-law did that until she was 85.
    b) Own a sports car (whatever that is)?
    c) Read TTAC?
    d) Change your car’s oil?
    e) Join the ‘Never-EV’ club?

    If I say I don’t miss manuals and prefer EVs over ICEs now, am I disqualified from being an enthusiast?

    A 2008 manual entered my fleet last year, and it is now receiving an expensive repair. So I’m less sympathetic to The Cause now than ever.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “d) Change your car’s oil?”

      I can do this, I’m just lazy and don’t. Am I now banished?

      “A 2008 manual entered my fleet last year, and it is now receiving an expensive repair.”

      Inquiring minds want to know more.

      • 0 avatar
        statikboy

        Was that a manual-specific repair? Keeping in mind that a properly-driven clutch should last the life of the car. Same for the transmission itself. A few brands excepted, only an abused manual should cause you problems…

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @28:

        08 Rabbit, bought from a friend who left the country. Buying the car did both of us a favor, and it usually lives at college with my son.

        It now has only 100k on it. The hydraulics in the clutch failed during the annual safety inspection, so I had it towed to a transmission shop. Then they declared that it also needed a new clutch because of a noise. Having owned a bunch of manuals over the last 40 years, I’m doubtful about the need for a clutch. The only noise I’ve heard is a 5th gear whine. But with the car held hostage, I’m in no position to debate. Altogether, it’s $1200.

        This is work I would normally do myself, but this breakdown coincides with me having more money than time.

        Besides this repair, the car has also required a host of other things this month, which adds to the grouch factor and deepens my mistrust for VW. But used car prices are so bad that it’s cheaper to fix it. Besides, I must admit that the torquey 5-cylinder 5-speed is pretty fun to drive.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Thanks for the reply, I’m sorry to hear that. If its a “grey area” type fail which it sounds like I may get another opinion (although it sounds as if time may be a luxury your family doesn’t have).

          “I must admit that the torquey 5-cylinder 5-speed is pretty fun to drive.”

          Ah yes, you are doing a good deed in the world.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      I don’t like wagons, hatchbacks, diesel engines, or small trucks, am I allowed in?

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I do
      a, c, d, e

      b… My Mazda6 trim called “Sport” :-)

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      S to A

      I don’t think Tim is excluding EV enjoyers from the Enthusiasts Club. It seems more that he is saying that recent trends in the automotive world have resulted in homogenization of the available product. A “watering down” if you will. Electric power steering, for example, has been implemented pretty well industy-wide and has been panned for degrading steering feel (an enthusiast concept) compared to its hydraulic brethren.

      Electric power steering has the noble purpose of improving fuel economy, but dropping 60 lbs of rather useless electronics (yes, this is an opinion, but it’s mine so by the transient properties of the internet, it’s the right one) would probably do more good. This would have the double benefit of improving steering feel and making the car more tossable. Win. Win.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Electric power steering has the noble purpose of improving fuel economy,”

        Of this I was unaware, but a 0.001mpg or thereabouts increase isn’t valid IMO. This was more likely done because it was cheaper to engineer and build an electronic system rather than a hydraulic one. Prior to JIT inventory getting hit with the Tsar Bomba, this may have made business sense. We may see a return to a hydraulic system if it helps avoid the chip problem.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        EPAS is definitely done to improve MPG. It is lighter than a Hydraulic system takes up less space and of course doesn’t have the constant drag of the pump. It was more expensive when initially introduced but it may be on par or cheaper than a Hydraulic system now.

        As far as feel goes that is a programing choice, with EPAS it is possible to make it feel exactly like manual steering by leaving the motor circuit open or just giving it enough power to eliminate its own drag.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          It does help with MPG, but it really helps with lowering assembly costs. Plugging in a few connectors is way easier that dealing with hydraulic lines, installing fluid, purging air out, routing the lines, etc. And it saves underhood space. I’m willing to bet warranty costs are less on the electrics as well. The reality is that electronics are now so cheap that mechanical parts that require extra assembly steps, adjustments, etc. are just too expensive – labor wise – to justify.

  • avatar
    cliff731

    I have a S-197 Mustang GT based Bullitt with a proper V-8 engine and rear wheel drive… & 5 speed manual transmission. My other car is a Panther platform Crown Vic… automatic transmission of course there. Perhaps my boat floats down both rivers there, eh?

  • avatar
    ajla

    I blame Costco.

  • avatar
    jmiller417

    What could save the manuals is electrification to handle around-town driving. I have a manual ATS, and I’ve often thought it would be great to have batteries driving the front wheels in stop and go. It’s probably too complex to engineer with such little demand in the mass market, but it seems like there would be a market for that at the high end.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    It’s just a matter of time before the ICE powertrain is an impractical toy for hobbyists. How much time? It could be one or three decades. But at that point gas will be comparatively hard to get (kind of like race gas today) and the ICE vehicles will be banned from dense areas for local air quality reasons.

    But if you want to drive ICE manual cars on tracks and likely on rural roads, you’ll be able to do so for as long as anyone reading this is alive.

    Personally, I want one more manual car before I die, and recognize sooner is probably better. Right now I’m saving every penny for the upcoming house remodel, but once that expense is out of the system I’m going to buy some used manual car, likely either a straight-6 BMW or a 6-speed Honda. I’ll keep it until either I’ve gotten the manual urge out of my system or it’s not practical to use it anymore.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    DCTs are awesome.

    Manuals are awesome.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I also think a broader swath of buyers can now be classified as “enthusiasts,” and that includes people who want high-performance trucks and off-roaders. Even if those vehicles aren’t my cup of tea, those drivers are just as enthusiastic about what they drive as I am about my ride.

    I also think that performance crossovers will soon become a thing. There’s no shortage of them at the high end of the market (think Audi SQ5, etc), but no one’s making a volume-priced model yet.

    I was at a VW dealer yesterday, where I first saw the new Taos. It’s a neat looking vehicle, and one I’d definitely consider buying if it had the GTI powertrain (which wouldn’t be much of a trick considering both cars share a platform). At a $35,000 pricetag, it’d find some buyers. I also think Ford should do a ST version of the Escape – it’s already surprisingly quick with the bigger engine, and since they’re already selling ST Edges and Explorers, it’d make sense.

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    People who buy “niche cars:
    a) enthusiasts
    b) rich people who want to show off their money
    c) rich enthusiasts

    c) probably buy manuals when possible. b) (for the most part) probably don’t care and don’t want to look dumb and/or be stuck in traffic with a manual, so buy auto. Pretty sure Porsche would rather sell 50000 high-markup auto cars to rich people, than to be “purist” – see Cayenne, Macan, etc.

    a) long to buy sport(y) cars, but often have to bow to practicalities, such as family, money, etc.

    a) is probably what most of us are.

    I loved manuals in my youth, had some fun cars, etc. Sometimes I wonder if “manual nostalgia” is more about that time in my life or something..

    My wife drives an automatic GTI, my parents (until last year when they downsized to just their RX330) drove a manual Matrix as their second car – who is more of an “enthusiast”? My mom, driving a manual Matrix (who MIGHT be able to tell you where the battery is – MAYBE), or me, driving a Kia Stinger GT AWD, did an auto-x in early 2020 and planning to do several HPDEs this year?

    As someone who wanted a car that is fun AND can take the family on road trips, I compromised with the Stinger. We took it on a week-long trip and just barely squeezed in all the stuff. And it was WAY more fun than taking the minivan. So which is the enthusiast choice: get a Mustang GT manual and only get to drive it once a month when I have time to go for a “fun drive” and drive the minivan the rest of the time – dropping the kids off at school, driving the family around town, etc? Or get way-more-fun-than-a-minivan daily? And it’s not like the manually-shifted auto in the Stinger is BAD, or that my (mostly VW) manuals of the past were ever that good – I did miss the occasional shift in the heat of the moment, gears would grind, etc..

    Pretty happy with my choice. Just changed the oil in the Stinger and rotated the tires at home last month.

    If you gave me unlimited time (i.e. not married with kids), open roads and little in the way of responsibilities, sure – I’d find a Golf GTI/R manual. I drove my ’90 GTi 16v halfway across the continent in 1997 on a road trip. And my ’94 Corrado VR6 (plus Z-Eng supercharger) – great lakes to CA and back – in 2003. Guess what – I’d rather be where I am driving a Stinger GT than back there.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Are you kidding? Being stuck in traffic is one of the main reasons for getting the stick shift. On the open road, it hardly matters, set it and forget it.

      • 0 avatar
        turbo_awd

        Why both with a stick shift in traffic? You slip it just a little, and you risk hitting the guy in front of you. My friend with a ’00 Camaro V8 manual said it was really, REALLY hard not to spin the tires or bog the launch. And he’d had “sporty” cars before that (as he could afford): Fiero V6, Dodge Shadow Turbo, etc.

        I already commuted in the 90s in traffic with a manual – no thanks. No point. In the city, light-to-light, sure. I wish the Stinger was just a tad quicker to respond there, but otherwise, no contest..

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Bog? Spin? How can you not control engagement? Yikes. You talk like the pedals are on/off switches.

          One is too much clutch release with not enough throttle, the other is too much throttle. Uhg.

          I wasn’t sure, but now I know you’re pulling my leg!

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        If I had to daily drive a stick in traffic, well, I wouldn’t drive much. I’ve borrowed friend’s cars over the years and I don’t know how they can stand it.

        It’s hard for me to imagine a better transmission than the current ZF 8 speed in the Challenger/Charger/300, etc.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    You want a manual?
    Ride a motorcycle.

    Exceptions apply, like Harley’s foray into E-bikes.

  • avatar
    Kenn

    As a car owner who recently had to spend over $2,500 on maintenance and repairs, dealing with timing belt/water pump, 02 sensor, oil leaks, fan clutch, and more, I am looking forward to the low-maintenance EV ownership experience (if anyone other than Tesla can build/manage an equivalent fast-charging network). I’ve had good manuals and poorly-designed manuals (new ’91 Integra was the worst, surprisingly), and believe I would love and prefer one-pedal driving.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      You will love it. The charging networks are getting better, too, but in over 6 years of EV driving, I’ve rarely used a public charger.

      Now on my 2nd EV, I won’t go back to ICE for my daily driver.

  • avatar
    syntax4

    I am leasing a 2019 Nissan Maxima. Mileage: 16,000. Drove much less than expected due to the pandemic and other factors.

    The 40,000 mile review of the 2020 Maxima gives me pause. This said, based on current experience, none of the issues described in the review have materialized. At least so far.

    The overall design of the car is great. The interior is a little cramped but nothing to write home about. The electronics work flawlessly. While it may not drive like a four door sports sedan, handling has never been a problem and the 300 HP engine provides sufficient pull so I feel safe on the highway. Was the price of the car above what it should have been. Probably.

    It may be that, in 2019, Nissan hadn’t made a final decision on dumping the Maxima so the build quality + other factors that go into the car may be better than in later models. Of course, this is pure speculation.

    My biggest problem with the Maxima are the dealerships in Las Vegas. With the exception of one, generally non-responsive. In one situation, coercive in terms of getting me to lease a Maxima from them.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    There was a time when I was a “manual” purist. I’m no longer one in relation to cars, trucks, and SUV’s. My son has a manual Cherokee and lifted F150. Both are fun but I’d have just a much fun flogging them offroad with an auto.

    Motorcycles on the other hand, fook no. Manuals only.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    If they’re limited production sports cars and manuals only, it adds to their mystique, iconic status, etc. It make sense when they’re in high demand. Manuals are cheaper to build too, so it’s a win all around.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Per this guy, it seems drivers of Washington State are about to get reamed:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/personalfinance/comments/nv57ta/progressive_auto_insurance_just_doubled_my_rate_7/h11g1i6?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

  • avatar
    bpscarguy

    Like Corey (I believe), I had a 2002 Infiniti I35. Older descendant of this car. Quiet, comfortable, powerful, fast with the V6.

    My I35 was THE BEST car I have owned. Mind you, not the most exciting, but THE BEST – meaning most reliable, cost effective and trouble free.

    Like many on here, I would never buy a Maxima now. Never even get past initial consideration. I think much of what Nissan builds now is a non-starter for me personally -and some of what Infiniti builds too.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    28, those with good credit are going to take a hit (although “reamed” may be a bit much, this is probably on the order of 10%). Those with bad credit will see premiums drop by an equal amount, as total premiums collected are remaining the same.

    My own policy just renewed at the end of April so I won’t find out the effect until October. In any event the rates are pretty reasonable for now: $383 and $372, respectively, for full coverage on the Highlander and Bolt, and $327 for the same coverages except comp and collision on the Legend. (For some reason that rate on the Legend was a significant drop from the last policy period. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, I guess.)

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Thanks Dal. I was able to get collector’s insurance on my Volvos and combined they are $250/year (or thereabouts) for full coverage.

      PA defines nearly the same rules with the exception it adds “occasional” is defined as “one day a week” in all caps.

      “(4) A collector vehicle registered under this section may only be used for participation in club activities, exhibitions, tours, parades, and occasional pleasure driving.”

      https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.18.220

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Isn’t the question supposed to be whether there are enough enthusiasts willing to buy a car, at sticker, without demanding the car maker take a loss for the privilege of unloading their wares? The intersection on the venn diagram of enthusiasts who want a manual and who are willing to buy new without persuasion and rebates seems pretty low based on the comments from this and other sites.

    Now whether a manufacturer chooses to build a vehicle with the right stuff is a different matter.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I’ve said it before but I never got the love for stick shifts, they were a bandaid for awful emissions choked econoboxes decades ago but in the modern era of good automatics and overpowered everything a third pedal is as appealing as crank windows.

    As far as broader automotive enthusiasm, the patient is already terminal. Godawful traffic has already taken most of the fun out of driving where most people live. Add another couple decades of endless immigration and unlimited development and this country will be LA from one end to the other. Now add self driving cars that make three hour stop and creep commutes tolerable, because they no longer subtract from the driver’s screen time, and three hour stop and creeps will be the only driving left.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    We’re having some issues with a new style of automotive enthusiast here in Atlanta. Fans of the “Fast and the Furious” series have been blocking expressways late at night and running impromptu drifting sessions. So, I don’t think motoring enthusiasm is dying out, although I could do without this manifestation.

    I’m going to buy a new car next year, it’s either going to be a BRZ or a Cayman, I’m leaning heavily towards the Cayman. If I were to get the BRZ I’d get a manual, but for the Cayman it will be a PDK, it’s just too good.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    ” Unless the ICE is outright banned, of course”

    ____

    I think they will effectively be banned, at least to where a middle class person can’t get their hands on them as the government will punish any car company that still builds them.

    It will look voluntary and give the illusion of the “market”, but it will be the government forcing its heavy hand down to make it as economically unattractive as possible.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Ultimately, does it matter what powers the wheels? I’m torn by that. I had a rental Mustang convertible with a V6 and frankly, it was pretty quick – quick enough that I’d be totally happy with its performance for a daily driver. And that’s coming from someone with a 6.2 litre sports car. But, the sound was so disappointing. But in the end if the car is powered by motors and still is fast, handles well, and has a reasonable recharge time I think I’d get over it.

      Banning ICE cars? Well, IIRC every barrel of oil breaks down into a host of products, gasoline and diesel included. What would you do with the gasoline? Way back in the early days gasoline was an unwanted byproduct. Will it become one again?

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        My theory is that gasoline will get cheaper than diesel and that smaller long-distance vehicles (e.g., hotshot trucks) will begin to use it as a result.

        Class 8 trucks that don’t get electrified will continue to use diesel as the efficiency gains are just too great.

  • avatar

    1

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Just admit you’re not a fan. It’s totally fine, we won’t judge, demand your mancard, etc. You can hate them, not know how to drive them (the majority of the US), or even scared whatever and it’s totally cool.

    No big deal, just be honest. We can see right through the BS.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    “Unless the ICE is outright banned, of course.” Keep voting for looney Democrats and that will sure has hell happen. They want to control every aspect of our lives which includes telling us what vehicles to drive. It also plays into their false narrative of “climate change”. Control control control.

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