Car Sales Data Suggests Manual Transmissions Are Making a (Slight) Comeback

They haven't quite gone the way of the dodo yet, more like vinyl LPs

Manual transmission
Turns out the manual transmission has staying power.
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Has the manual transmission reached the end of the road? Given that an overwhelming number of vehicles produced today use automatic transmissions, it’s not hard to see why a number of writers have begun pondering the eventual end of the stick shift — and what it might mean for drivers in the future. All of which makes the findings from some recent car sales data that much more expected. Maybe it isn’t quite time to count out the manual transmission just yet.

Writing at WardsAuto, Steve Finlay analyzed recent sales data from J.D. Power and CarMax and pointed out that sales of cars with manual transmissions are actually trending upward. According to J.D. Power, 1.7% of the new vehicle sales in 2023 were of manual transmission vehicles. It’s a relatively small percentage — true — but it’s nearly double the share of new vehicle sales that stick shifts had in 2021, which was 0.9%.

As for CarMax’s data, in 2022 manual transmissions accounted for 2.9% of the company’s sales. That’s up from 2.4% in 2020.

Admittedly, these are not huge percentages of annual new car sales. They do represent a niche, but a niche that’s growing. As for how large that niche might get, that’s one for the industry forecasts to suss out.

Perhaps we should have seen this coming when Mini announced an uptick in the number of stick shifts available in its 2024 models earlier this year. Or perhaps it goes hand-in-hand with the steady growth of LP sales since early in the 21st century.

It does seem as though there’s more demand for manual transmissions than some might believe. A survey commissioned by Mini revealed earlier this year that 67% of those polled between the ages of 18 and 34 were interested in learning to drive a stick shift. That lines up with a 2020 survey commissioned by Cadillac that indicated 66% of the U.S. drivers polled could drive a manual transmission.

Could the rise of electric vehicles also see a stick shift renaissance? Stranger things have happened.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.