General Motors pounded the first nail in the manual’s coffin with the introduction of the 1940 Oldsmobile’s optional Hydra-Matic torque-converter automatic transmission. Eighty years later, dual-clutch automatics have displaced three-pedal stick-shifts in enthusiast cars from Ferrari and Lamborghini on down. Very few modern unibody SUVs and no full-size pickup trucks sold in the U.S. can be had with a manual, and just four luxury brands offer them.
The few cars still sold with manuals generally achieve higher EPA fuel-economy ratings with an automatic option, and a vehicle with a pesky clutch pedal won’t easily convert to SAE Level 4 or Level 5 autonomy. One of the worst-kept secrets about the eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette is that there will be no full-manual option for the first time since the 1955 model year.
That makes GM president Mark Reuss’s recent comment that “Cadillac will make manuals in V-Series” models all the more enigmatic. Specifications released for the all-new 2020 Cadillac CT4-V and CT5-V list a 10-speed automatic as the only transmission available for both, so the list of 2020 GM models with manuals consists of just two such cars for now. It’s possible we’ll have to wait until 2021 and the uprated variants of those V cars to get a stick.
Costs for certifying a car or truck for emissions and fuel economy in the U.S. have helped build the coffin. It costs more than a million dollars to do so per powertrain, so for example a 2.0-liter gas engine available with an eight-speed automatic and a six-speed manual will cost the manufacturer more than $2 million to certify. Think an automaker can make up half of that by selling at best, a few thousand manuals per year?
But low manual-transmission take rates are a self-fulfilling prophecy. Except for certain sports cars, dealerships don’t want stick-shift-equipped cars to sit on their lots for months as they hope and pray for the buyer who both knows how to drive one and wants to buy one. Manual-gearbox buyers get frustrated looking for their chosen model with a manual, so they give in to the regular automatic, CVT, or dual-clutch option.
Our advice: Stick to your sticks, fellow enthusiasts. If you want a new car with a full, three-pedal manual, the internet is your friend. Be prepared to travel out of state to bring one home and be aware that you’ll have fewer choices for the coming model year, following an already grim 2018–2019 period. Here are your choices for model year 2020 (subject to manufacturer’s change without notice, of course). The final nail hasn’t been pounded in quite yet.
2 Series (230i coupe, M240i coupe/convertible)
4 Series (430i/440i coupe)
The BMW brand declined to provide take rates and says the manual lineup above is for the 2019 model year. Expect no changes to BMW’s list for the 2020 model year. Note that the new-for-2019 3 Series no longer offers a manual in any iteration, and that the M3 is expected to return and include a RWD, manual “Pure” variant, but it’s unclear if it will go on sale as a 2020 or 2021 model.
Fiat Chrysler won’t talk take rates, although we hear it’s about 69 percent for the 124 Spider, which would be in line with the numbers for its mechanical twin, the Mazda Miata. Manual options for the Fiat 500X and 500L and the Jeep Renegade (all on the same platform) were dropped prior to 2019. The Jeep Wrangler and the Gladiator can each be had with a six-speed manual, though only when equipped with the 3.6-liter V-6 engine.
Ford Mustang Shelby GT350
Ford says 50 percent of current Mustang GT buyers and 20 percent of Mustang EcoBoost buyers choose the six-speed manual. The Shelby GT350 is available only with a manual, while the GT500 will come only with a dual-clutch automatic. The ’19 Fiesta is available with a manual, but there will be no ’20 Fiesta in the U.S. The new Ranger midsize pickup truck comes only with an automatic, so it seems unlikely the upcoming Bronco will be offered with a manual, though it should be noted that its target competitor, the Jeep Wrangler, is offered with a six-speed stick.
Manual take rate on the 2019 Chevy Corvette is approximately 20 percent this year, but the new mid-engine car will only have a dual-clutch automatic on its spec sheet. Take rate on the ’19 Camaro is approximately 20 percent, and about 40 percent on the Spark. GM dropped the manual option by 2019 from the Chevy Sonic, Chevy Colorado, and GMC Canyon, although Mark Reuss promises manual options for future Cadillac V cars. The 2020 Cadillac CT4-V and CT5-V come with automatics only, for now.
The Genesis G70 is available with a six-speed manual when powered by the turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Its only competitor—sort of—with a manual is the BMW 4 Series coupe, as no other entry-luxury sedan can be had with a stick, including BMW’s new 3 Series. Take rate is about 4 percent on the G70.
Civic/Civic Si/Type R
No Acuras are available with a manual transmission. The Si and Type R come only with the marque’s famously snick-snick-smooth six-speed manual transmissions, and they join the Sport as the only Civics available with stick-shifts. The ’20 Accord Sport, in both 1.5- and 2.0-liter guises, is also available with a six-speed manual, as is the Fit hatchback.
The all-new 2020 Hyundai Venue on sale this fall will be the only subcompact crossover sold in the U.S. with a manual option. Take rate for the Veloster/Veloster N is about 25 percent.
Jaguar Land Rover
Jaguar is dropping the six-speed manual option from the ’20 F-Type, making the 2019 model of the sports car the last from this marque offered with a manual gearbox in the U.S. Its take rate was less than five percent.
Manual take rate on the ’18 Forte was 2.0 percent, and 2.3 on the 2019 model. The ’19 Soul had a 2.8 percent manual take rate, and the ’18 model was at 2.6 percent. Take rate on the new-for-2020 Soul is just 1.8 percent so far, but the stick option is only available with the base LX. All other new Soul models get a standard CVT except for the top-spec GT-Line Turbo, which comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The manual Soul falls into the self-fulfilling prophecy category; dealerships typically skew their orders toward heavily equipped models for the introduction of an all-new design.
Current manual take rate on the Miata is 76 percent for the soft top and 52 percent for the RF. Stick-shift options have been dropped from both the Mazda 6 and the base front-wheel-drive CX-3.
John Cooper Works
Mini is the only marque left in the U.S. with a full line of models that are available in the U.S. with manual options. For the 2019 model year so far, Mini’s manual take rate is a fairly healthy 11 percent. The Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop two-door is the sub-model with the highest take rate, at 41 percent, with Cooper S two-doors at 17 percent and the base Cooper at 11 percent. Take rate for the Countryman model ranges from 0 percent for the Cooper S to 19 percent for the JCW.
Take rate is a relatively healthy 11 percent for the Mirages. For 2020, the Outlander Sport loses its manual option, so hurry if you want a 2019 model with three pedals.
Like most of its luxury marque competitors, Nissan’s Infiniti division no longer offers a manual-transmission option on any model. Manual take rate for the Nissan 370Z coupe so far in 2019 is 46 percent.
911 Carrera S/4S
Forthcoming 992 variants
Like Fiat Chrysler and BMW, Porsche is loath to talk about 2020 models before their actual launch, although the company says the ’20 911 Carrera S and 4S “are expected to be available to order with a manual transmission later this year.” Despite promoting the PDK transmission for years as a quicker alternative, Porsche is pretty much the champion of modern three-pedal gearboxes and says the 2018–19 911 GT3 had a take rate of “about 70 percent.”
The Subaru WRX/STI has the highest manual take rate of any car on this list, approximately 88 percent. Manuals make up a healthy 73 percent of BRZs, while the Impreza and Crosstrek each sell at about five percent.
Manuals are history at Lexus, which once offered it in versions of the IS. Toyota will not officially confirm a turbo four-cylinder option coming for the new Supra, but it’s very much likely to happen along with a manual option. Take rate for the Toyota 86 is about 67 percent. It’s about 15 percent for the Corolla hatchback, less than five percent of Tacoma customers choose a manual, and the rates for the Corolla sedan and Yaris sedan are about 1 percent each. (For some reason, a manual isn’t being offered on the new, ostensibly sportier Yaris hatchback.)
For 2019, about 10.2 percent of Golf hatchbacks, 28 percent of Golf SportWagens, 44.5 percent of GTIs, and 44.3 percent of Golf Rs have been sold with three-pedal manuals. The take rate so far in ’19 is 7.1 percent combined for the base Jetta S (higher trims are automatic-only) and the Jetta GLI.