CarBuzz does some digging to find out the figures.
Manual transmissions make up only a small fraction of new vehicle sales, especially in the United States, where consumers quickly embraced automatics compared to Europe. In fact, electric vehicles now outsell manuals, even though they also only make up a small fraction of the market. There are plenty of mainstream vehicles that still offer a stick shift option, including the Honda Civic, which boasts around a 9% manual take rate. Other automakers like Toyota sell a fair share of manual cars, but the highest take rates come from sports car manufacturers that cater to driving enthusiasts.
To find out how many people are still shopping for this increasingly rare option, CarBuzz did some digging. We contacted a slew of sports car manufacturers to determine how many customers still opt for the manual when an automatic is also offered. At least in the enthusiast community, the manual may not be on its deathbed just yet.
Based on three sales quarters from 2020, a clear winner in the manual sales race is the 2020 Lotus Evora GT with a whopping 75% take rate for the stickshift. As the 2020 CarBuzz Track Weapon of the Year Award winner, we aren't shocked to see that the Evora's six-speed manual transmission outsold the optional automatic three-to-one. This car is best enjoyed with the row-it-yourself transmission choice, and buyers clearly agree.
Though it's lower than the Lotus, the 2020 BMW M2 also commands an impressive manual take rate. The "M2 take rate for manual transmissions has been around half (50%) for all models since the beginning," said BMW Spokesperson Oleg Satanovsky. This factors in the original M2, M2 Competition, and the latest M2 CS, all of which offered a seven-speed dual-clutch option.
Though the model is dying off and is soon-to-be-replaced by a new 400Z, the 2020 Nissan 370Z also managed around a 50:50 manual-to-automatic split.
Porsche remains highly committed to keeping the manual transmission alive, especially in the US market. "Traditionally, the interest of US-based Porsche customers in manual transmissions has been healthy," said Frank Wiesmann, Manager of Product Communications for Porsche Cars North America.
All 2020 model year and later Porsche 911 Carrera S and 4S models (Coupe, Cabriolet, and Targa) can be ordered with a seven-speed manual at no extra charge, replacing the eight-speed PDK. "Over 20% of our customers in the US are choosing to do so, which is consistent with what we have seen in the last number of years," Wiesmann confirmed.
The Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman also offer six-speed manual options on all trim levels from the base 300-horsepower variants up to the special Spyder and GT4 models. "With the addition of the latest 718 Cayman GT4, 718 Spyder, and 718 Boxster/Cayman GTS 4.0 models, where the customer interest in rowing your own gears has traditionally been higher due to the particularly engaging and purist character of the cars, we are seeing over a third of all 718 buyers in the US choose the standard manual transmission."
Finally, we took a look at muscle cars, which traditionally have a higher-than-average take rate for the manual. The 2020 Ford Mustang has a pretty high rate across the board, though it varies based on the engine. 30% of Mustang GT models with the 5.0-liter V8 are sold with the six-speed manual instead of the 10-speed automatic. Only 5% of Mustangs with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder are sold with a stick, but that number balloons to 20% on models with the optional High Performance Engine.
Chevrolet's manual take rate for the Camaro was 17% across the lineup. CarBuzz reached out to Dodge to find out how the Challenger fares, but the company declined to provide a breakdown of its manual sales.
We didn't reach out to Subaru for comment on the BRZ since the all-new 2022 model hasn't gone on sale yet. But in the outgoing generation, the BRZ managed an impressive 78% take rate. This is much higher than the Toyota 86, which only sold around 33% of its units with the stick shift. The WRX also sold in impressively high manual numbers at around 90%, which may be aided by the manual-only STI model. Volkswagen's Golf GTI is about to be replaced by a new model, but the outgoing GTI and Golf R combined for a 44% manual take rate.
Mazda declined to give recent figures from 2020, but in 2019, the company told us that 76% of soft-top MX-5 buyers and 52% of RF customers opted for the manual. Aston Martin, a company that has vowed to be the last automaker to offer a manual transmission, also declined to provide take rate numbers. The Vantage now offers a seven-speed manual and is not only available on the special edition AMR as before.
Long story short, the manual isn't dead yet. While in recent years manufacturers have made the shift to automatics across their model lineups, the purists have come to the party and put their money where their mouths are. That's why upcoming products like the Cadillac Blackwing models and the Ford Bronco will both offer manual transmission options.
It's not just empty #SaveTheManual social media posts anymore, but those with the buying power are proving that not everyone cares about tenths of a second saved around a lap - they want to engage with their vehicles in a physical manner that no automatic can provide. There will always be exceptions, like the Shelby GT350 that's manual only while the ludicrously-powered Shelby GT500 can't be had with a stick at all, but the figures prove that when given the option, driving enthusiasm prevails.