Is America's love affair with the standard transmission coming to an end? The numbers seem to say it all. In 1985, according to Ward's Communications , 22 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States came with a manual transmission. By 2007 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), the number had plummeted to just over seven percent.
But numbers don't tell the whole story. If you're among the legions of drivers who fondly remember "three on the tree," and who still enjoy driving with four on the floor, all is not lost. Particularly if you drive a Porsche . Rich Del Mazzio, ecommerce manager at New Country Motors , with locations in Connecticut and New York, has a strong opinion on the matter: "The stick shift is not a dying breed. Not for Porsches, that is," he says. And while Porsche drivers love their stick shifts, the company is stepping up to the times. "We also offer what Porsche calls, Doppelkupplung, which is in effect a dual clutch. This technology gives customers the fun of a stick shift with a faster shifting mechanism that also gets better fuel economy."
But elsewhere, beyond the lot full of shiny Porsche sports cars, the vestigial stick shift suffers from lack of usefulness. Long gone are the days when manual transmissions were offered standard on all vehicles, and few if any driver education classes offer standard transmissions to students for use in their training vehicles. And there's also the fact that there are very few old tractors lying around the yard -- at least not in Westchester County -- to be used as training wheels, so to speak, for younger drivers.
Contributing to the demise of the three-pedaled car is fuel economy. In the past, manual transmissions meant more miles per gallon on the road, but improvements in the design of automatic transmissions have helped close the fuel economy gap. And anyone who's been caught in the parking lot known as Interstate 684 will attest to the fact that doing so in a car with a stick shift would fast lose its appeal.
Preaching to the choir is an understatement when it comes to convincing a serious driver of the pleasures of piloting a car with a manual transmission. Rich says of the experience, "It's always exciting, especially when you're shifting through the gears in a Porsche." The unmatched control a driver has over her vehicle is heady enough, but the thrill of a perfectly timed two-three upshift is exquisite, and of course exponentially more so when experienced in one of Rich's fleet.
The stick shift might be dying. Long live the Porsche.
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