The Last Manual . . . and When

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It is likely that within eight years and maybe sooner, it will be impossible to find a new car with a third pedal.

It is already very hard.

Only a small handful of vehicles even offer them anymore – one of the few being the 2022 Mini Cooper S hardtop I’m test driving this week. It has been months since I last got a new car to test drive that had a third pedal.

It’s been at least a decade since the last truck with a stick.

No full-size trucks are available with them anymore. Only one mid-sized truck still offers the option and that one – the Toyota Tacoma – reportedly won’t, soon.

The reasons for this have been explained here previously, but in summary:

Automatics can be programmed to achieve better MPG numbers on government fuel efficiency tests.  These tests determine whether – and how much – a vehicle manufacturer gets socked with what are styled (to elicit the appropriate shame reflex) “gas guzzler” fines; the added cost imposed by these fines are then be passed on to buyers in the form of higher vehicle prices – and decreased manual availability.

The car companies either cancel the manual altogether or limit its availability to a very few specialty models (as for example Mazda has; all of its current models are automatic-only except for the Miata, a two-seater roadster) in order to reduce the damage done to its corporate average (CAFE) fuel economy numbers. A manual equipped car that scores say 30 MPG rather than 33 MPG on the government tests having the same effect that a C has on a high school report card.

Decreased availability of manuals results in fewer people driving vehicles with manuals.

This results in more and more people learning to drive in cars equipped with automatic transmissions; many – probably most – never learn how to drive a car equipped with a manual transmission. When they shop for a vehicle, they buy one they can drive – which is usually one equipped with an automatic transmission.

Which – in turn – increases demand for automatic-equipped vehicles.

A feedback loop has been created.

It’s not just lack of interest – and lack of demand.

There is also demand – for automatics. For other reasons.

Automatics can also be programmed for faster, snappier shifting than most human drivers are capable of consistently shifting. This is the chief reason why almost all of the highest-performing cars are automatic-only cars.

The manufacturers can tout lower 0-60 and faster lap times. This helps them sell cars – and makes it harder to sell not-as-quick cars.

There is still a die-hard constituency (say it like the bumpkin politician in Man of Constant Sorrows) that will always prefer the manual over the automatic for reasons of passion – that are on the wane in our bloodless, soul-less times. But it is not enough, probably, to justify the bother – especially the regulatory bother – of offering them for sale in any cars besides a handful of very low-volume specialty cars.

Which are bound to become so expensive in the years ahead that their availability won’t matter much.

Personal jets are available, too.

There is one other thing that will close the lid on the third pedal’s coffin – and nail it shut for good.

That thing being the electric car.

More precisely, the mandating of electric cars – coming into full force just eight years from now (2030, per the mandate of the Biden Thing at the federal level and the Newsome Thing at the California level) but actually much sooner than that, which is something many people do not understand.

So let’s explain it.

The car companies operate on what are called model cycles, which refers to a number of years during which a given car will be on the market before a new cycle starts – with a brand-new or at least heavily updated model.

The usual model cycle is about four years long. (It used to be much longer, before government regulatory pressure made it harder to not not “update” a model every four years or less.)

It takes about four years to get a new model ready for the showroom. To get it designed, to get prototypes built – and tested. To run them through the gantlet of regulatory compliance regimes that must be met and complied with before the production car can be put on the market.

What this means is that the “all-new” 2022 model year car you just bought or are thinking about buying was probably conceived back in 2018 and worked on until just about now –  before it arrived, ready for you to buy, at your local dealership.

The 2026 “all new” cars are being developed as you read this – in anticipation of the gantlet of regulatory and compliance regimes that will be in force, then.

Now, the Biden Thing has decreed that by then, all new non-electric vehicles – cars and trucks – will have to average close to 50 MPG else be made greatly more expensive via “gas guzzler” fines, which the manufacturers are coping with by adding more electric cars to their product mix. Electric cars burn no gas and so help fluff up the corporate average (CAFE) numbers.

The handful of non-electrics that remain grow fewer – and costlier – on account of the fines.

Fewer people an afford to buy them – and so, don’t. It becomes even harder to build them with manuals, given the automatic’s slight but nonetheless significant mileage advantage on the government’s fuel efficiency tests – and more expensive to buy the ones that make it through.

When 2030 rolls around and the only new cars you’ll be allowed to buy are electric cars – courtesy of the Biden Thing, the Newsome Thing and various other such Things – there will be no new cars available with manuals.
Because electric cars don’t have transmissions.

There is a battery and a motor (sometimes plural, depending on the electric car) and these drive the wheels directly, without any need to transmit anything, automatically or otherwise.

It will be Golf Cart City. Push the pedal – singular – and it goes.

And that’s all she wrote, folks.

It was fun while it lasted.

Let’s Go Brandon!

. . .

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40 COMMENTS

  1. Eric,

    I hope you don’t mind but I linked to your very well reasoned piece on BIGOG. Getting lots of reviews. All car guys. Comments are interesting.

  2. I have a five speed manual Crosstrek via an Eric review. Had to have it shipped because none for sale here. Great little crossover. I wont get a vaccine, I wont own a non-manual, and and they can fucking forget electric. If they ban gas stations I may have to figure something out however.
    Btw – I saw a Ford GT go to like 900,00 dollars on Bring a Trailer recently. Still below the asshat nascar driver’s reserve. And theres no third pedal. I’m like wtf?

    • It all goes along with some satanic agenda being forced up our asses. Get rid of cursive writing, gifted classes in school and teach seven year olds how to masturbate snd a guy sucking dick is cool instead. Evil evil stuff. Agree with a previous comment allowing the upvote option. John Kable I think.

    • to ramble on the last year of the manual crosstrek is 2022. And God bless Mazda for still making the best manual on the planet. Even friggin FERRARI is all paddle/hybrid soon to be all-electric bullshit now.

  3. Here’s a double heaping of poison from Ford. In an article about a 1978 Ford F-150, factory retrofitted with a Mustang Mach-e crate motor for the SEMA show, Ford says:

    “Our F-100 Eluminator concept is a preview of how we’re supporting customers as they go all-electric and embrace zero-tailpipe emissions performance, even for our heritage vehicles.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/02/ford-unveils-a-custom-electric-pickup-ahead-of-f-150-lightning-.html

    You can see the agenda here: retrofit ‘heritage vehicles’ with battery power, or cancel their registration. Coming soon to a blue state near you.

    As a special pukefest bonus, in the embedded video the anchors discuss Ford’s mandate to bring its ‘vaxxed’ workforce from 84% to 100% needled.

    FORD: F***ing Over Rural Dwellers

  4. “Because electric cars don’t have transmissions”

    I think that depends on the electric car. In cordless power tools and outdoor power equipment electric motors often run at high speeds then use a transmission to get it down to a reasonable speed and produce the torque needed for the tool to do its job. This is a function of using high voltages to stuff energy into the battery packs and then not have huge thick wires to get it to the motor.

    Electric car motors if they already don’t have transmissions they will likely soon for the same reasons. They may be fixed gear ratio transmissions like in power tools, but transmissions they will be.

    Also people who convert cars to EV’s often leave the manual transmission in place. it allows them to use cheaper electric motors. Which is another reason battery EVs may have transmissions. A transmission allows for a much more simple motor and controller.

  5. My last manual was an 89 Toyota truck.
    Rode like a little tank, but what an awesome off roader.

    Progress sometimes isnt – esp mandated progress.
    I notice a trend; mandates seem to bring undesirable outcomes.

  6. My Ex used to call my old 99 truck an ‘anti-theft device’. Turns out she was right; most can’t even drive it today. Well, at least I kept the right ‘Baby’.

  7. Sad…more bad news….Not like I didn’t know this already I work in automotive plastics. These dipshits can have my 3 pedal autos when they pry my cold dead hands off the shift knob.

  8. I am guessing there already isn’t any development of new (not just updates) manuals, gas or diesel engines or geared transmissions.

    Most companies will be caught with their pants down (again) when this electric thing goes nowhere. Because reality WILL set in at some point, even government cannot mandate reality away. Even if somehow electric cars became more practical we just don’t have the electric to power them. Electric companies are just too dysfunctional to be able to.

    VW, Ford and GM will be the hardest hit as they have drunk the kool-aide the most.

    Toyota is probably in the best position as they have the resources to have some of both electric and gas. Most of the smaller companies like Chrysler, Nissan, Mazda don’t have the resources to develop electric in a major way, and so may find themselves in a better position when it hits the fan.

    I think the best we can hope for is a return to mostly 1990’s car tech, and maybe that is for the best overall.

  9. The Porsche Taycan and it’s Audi eTron brother are the only electric cars with a transmission, a two speed automatic, it gives better acceleration, higher top speed, keeps the electric motor rpm down for less wear at high speed.

  10. The Mk1, Mk2, Mk3, VW Golf or Jetta diesels were great, mechanical injection pump, no electronics, will run on cooking oil, 50% used engine oil, etc., will run with a dead battery, (have to push start). 250,000 miles engine life no problem, no tune ups, easy to wrench on, simple, cheap parts. I got 38 mpg city, 60 mpg highway, diesel cheaper then gas, standard transmission life 250,000 miles no problem. Some Mk4 diesels were lasting 400,000 miles. An old Mercedes diesel will last even longer, but it is a bigger heavier car, burns more fuel.

  11. ‘electric cars don’t have transmissions’ — eric

    What they do have is a gov-sponsored stock bubble, as investors bet on Tesla being the long-term winner of an all-electric regime.

    But the air is hissing out of the Tesla bubble this morning, with the stock down as much as 10 percent in early morning trading.

    At its high on Nov 4th, Tesla’s price-to-sales ratio nearly reached 30. GM’s P/S ratio, by comparison, is 0.65 (under one is considered cheap; over 10 astronomically high).

    What is wrong with this picture?

      • Hi Swamp,

        GM still makes a few good vehicles, such as the Tahoe/Suburban. The rest aren’t much – and won’t be around long, regardless. “All electric” means either GM survives as a “transportation as a service” provider – due to the unaffordability of EVs – or it shrivels and dies, like a slug someone sprinkled salt upon.

        Barra won’t care as she’ll be long gone – along with her tens of millions in salary.

  12. Anecdotally, most of the best drivers I know personally are proficient with a stick shift.

    However when I bought mine the salesman told me about a customer they had who managed to burn out the clutch completely in about 300 miles. So there are some (undoubtedly flat broke) dodos out there too.

  13. Well, of course this betrays a very important point about the auto industry: in no way is it an actual “free market” any more. It’s part of the corporatist/neofascist/neosocialist state-controlled oligopoly. People WOULD drive stick shifts — not all of them, but a not insignificant percentage — if companies were allowed to build and market cars cheaply enough like Henry Ford did. A century ago, the auto industry was truly a free market. People decided to build cars, put their name on the trunk, and sell them — Ford, Nash, Hudson, Packard, Dodge. (You literally can’t do that today. The last guy who tried was John DeLorean forty years ago and he ended up getting indicted).

    Ford became the #1 auto seller in the country by selling cars cheap. He got the price of a Model T down from $800 to less than $300.

    If it were possible for an entrepreneur to sell a quality brand-new car or truck in 2022 for, let’s say, $9995 with a manual transmission, they would sell.

  14. I mostly miss a stick shift when towing my trailer. It’s so much easier on the old truck (and me) to shift by intuition than defer to the automatic –even with the tow/haul mode engaged.

  15. From the perspective of the manufacturer, sticks are problematic. Not only from the reasons given, but also because they’re more complex to manufacture. Or more correctly, assemble. The automatic “shifter” is actually just an encoder connected to the CANBUS. There’s no need for the big lever at all, it could easily be a simple push button or knob (as is the case in luxury vehicles). The shift lever in a manual is either going to come up from a hole in the floor or go through a somewhat complicated linkage that has to be fiddled into place on the assembly line. Either way everything has to line up or there will be problems, especially with today’s massive center consoles and tight tolerances.

    The new Apple laptops are a harbinger of what’s to come for all products. The M1 chip is very nearly a complete computer in of itself, integrating general processing, graphics, security and machine learning cores along with a unified RAM available to all the processors at the same time. One chip, reducing the component count by a very wide margin and therefore assembly cost. The increased performance is just a marketing benefit. GM has been pushing for electrics for decades just because they can manufacture one chassis and throw whatever body on top, but marketing can’t get past the charging problem. Now that Uncle is going to Build Back Better™ charging stations they can proceed with their new assembly lines.

    • Gas pedals (now called throttle position sensors), same story, it is easier, cheaper and faster to run a wire from the electronic pedal to the throttle body then complicated cables or linkage, electric steering the same story, nothing mechanical and long lasting anymore, everything is just cheap electronic junk.

  16. I remember being excited about redesigns and model changes. That ended circa 2010 for me. Nothing to get excited about when the only change is a smaller engine with turbo’s to mimic the power of the preceding v-8 or v-6, the size and connectivity of a touchscreen and “driver assists”.

    I want v-8’s, manuals and to drive them myself. I don’t want your assistance and 2 mpg improvement that only comes if I drive like an old lady.

    Fuck the swamp creatures and their pyramid world control scheme.

  17. Sometimes I wish your site had an “upvote” feature, Eric, as often comments made can only be affirm, not improved or kibbitzed upon.

    For about fifty or so years, car makers, after having reached a peak of matching efficiency, performance, and maintainability, have made their products more complicated. This out of a desire for “planned obsolescence”, as obviously the PTB have more interest in selling new rides and disposing of the old ones, regardless of the potential utility of the latter. One need only look at the ingenuity of the Cubans, and that in a “socialist” country, to keep the vintage Detroit iron serviceable.

    For example, back in the days of points-condenser ignition, one part did all Mopars, from the humblest slant six to even a roaring 440-six pack with a dual-point distributor. Although the dealer encouraged you to bring it back to the “stealership” for service, as they’d use “genuine” Mopar parts, but your local corner gas station that sold gas to pay the rent and utilities and actually made his living off of repairs/service got the same part, even in a box with a “generic” label. Or, if you did the tune-up yourself (remember when a budding mechanic was excited to get a dwell/tach and/or a timing light for Christmas?), you paid $2.99 at Western Auto or Pep Boys, and if you were smart, spent another buck on a point file to extend the life of that point set. Yes, TUNING was an ART, but essential for a mechanic to learn to maximize performance and engine life. Even when Chrysler went to the electronic ignition in ’73, it was still “one size fits all”, so if you had to service it, getting aftermarket parts wasn’t a big deal.

    Just try that shit now…IF you want to bother to take a drill and bore through those “tamper proof” screws that hold down the engine SHROULD on YOUR ride. Yes, the maker didn’t want YOU to touch it, so they put on a useless scrap of plastic to discourage you from figuring out what makes it “tick”.

    Yes, an old “Wabbit” diesel, or its predecessor, the Beetle, is looking VERY good ATM.

  18. Hey Eric, enjoy that one – have to say the mini (with a manual) is prob my favourite small car to drive. Used it to practice and give my UK driving test (to basically be able to follow the rules but unlearn how to “drive”). Also had a convertible one when I was in Mauritius…. real fun to throw around….

  19. One straw at a time. Until the camel’s back is broken. Then, who to blame?

    Eight years seems overly optimistic. The economic implosion (war, perhaps) will have us searching for that highly valued diesel Rabbit that we can push start and run on fryer oil before then, I fear.

    Look at the scenario you’ve laid out. No one will be buying new vehicles in 2030 except GovCo and, frankly, they can’t buy enough to keep the manufacturers in business. Those in charge of these companies, think Mary Barra, have sold their souls to Caesar in their “go along to get along” mentality. The MBA’s like her are the ones that are killing the economy. They all read the same books, they all think alike and none has had an original idea in their lives. Think “outside the box”? They ARE the box. They all seem to be secretly praying that Leviathan will eat them last.

    The sad part is, they’re taking the rest of us down with them.

    • Likewise, I don’ think there will BE a new car market long enough to engage the EV dictates. There may be a bigger market for home made cars by then.

      • I was wondering about the homemade car market myself. A couple weeks back, I saw some kids scooting around the neighborhood on a go-kart. I haven’t seen that since the 70s or early 80s. Kit cars seemed to be big back then too. Who knows?

          • The NHTSA rules are only as strong as the ability to enforce them. Where I live, I see people drive non-NHTSA vehicles all the time (mostly side-by-sides, farm-use trucks, and tractors) on public roads, and I never see them being pulled over. I’d imagine the same will be true with kit cars if enough people realize it’s the best and most cost-effective way to get around.

    • The battery died on our gas Rabbit about a month ago. My wife roll started it and got the battery tested/replaced. Standard transmission cars are great. I’d love to have a diesel version.

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