The stick shift — an automotive mainstay since the invention of the “horseless carriage” — is slowly going the way of the tailfin and carburetor, according to an article in the Detroit News on September 17.Thanks to technological advances and drivers looking for an easier way to navigate congested roadways, the old standard manual transmission doesn’t come standard much anymore. “One more generation and you’ll probably have people who have absolutely no idea what a three-pedal car does,” said Bill Visnic, senior technical editor of Ward’s AutoWorld,
an automotive trade magazine. By 2012, just 6 percent of all vehicles sold in the North American market will have manual transmissions, according to a forecast by Germany’s ZF Industries, the world’s largest independent transmission maker. In 2002, 10 percent of vehicles sold in the United States and Canada were equipped with manual gearboxes. The trend is also occurring in European markets, where manual transmissions are losing ground to automatics. In the United Kingdom, automatic transmission installations are on pace to reach 15 percent of all models, up from 13.5 percent five years ago, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Even heavy-duty and commercial trucks are making the switch. Over an eight-year span beginning in 1996, the popularity of automatic transmissions among heavy trucks rose from 5 percent to 18 percent, reports show.