Volkswagen’s decision to stop offering the Golf GTI and the Golf R with a manual transmission seemingly came at the wrong time. While stick-shifts still make up a small percentage of new-car sales, a recent study finds that demand for the manual transmission is increasing.
Citing data compiled by J.D. Power, industry trade journal WardsAuto wrote that stick-shifted models represent 1.7% of new-car sales in the United States in 2023 so far. For context, 1.2% of the cars sold new in 2022 came with three pedals, and that figure stood at 0.9% in 2021.
It’s not just new cars, either. CarMax, which sold 807,823 used cars during the 2023 fiscal year, said that sales of stick-shifted cars have increased from 2.4% in 2020 to 2.9% in 2022. Surprisingly, the retailer added that buyers in their 20s played significant role in pushing that figure towards the 3% mark. “Customers have expressed interest in manual-transmission vehicles due to a variety of factors, including nostalgia and throwback culture,” Mark Collier, a regional vice president and general manager at CarMax, explained to WardsAuto.
Less surprisingly, many of the motorists who take home a manual car choose it for the fun factor, not to save money. The days of ordering a stick to spend less are nearly over because a lot of relatively cheap new cars, like the Kia Rio, come standard with two pedals. Carmakers increasingly market the manual transmission as the enthusiast’s choice. CarMax’s best-selling manuals are the Honda Civic, the Ford Mustang, the Subaru WRX, the Jeep Wrangler, the Chevrolet Camaro, the Ford Focus, and the Dodge Challenger, according to the report.
For others, the stick remains a practical choice.
“We’ve also heard from parents, who are car-shopping for their teens, that they find stick-shifts appealing because they require the use of both hands, which may serve as a deterrent for texting while driving,” Collier concluded.