National stick shift day: A losing battle?

Jul 17, 2023, 2:00 PM | Updated: Jul 20, 2023, 7:08 am

Interior of a 1980 Toyota Celica. (Brian Champagne/KSL NewsRadio)...

Interior of a 1980 Toyota Celica. (Brian Champagne/KSL NewsRadio)

(Brian Champagne/KSL NewsRadio)


SALT LAKE CITY — If you listen to the radio on your drive to work or while you’re in the car, cruising down the highway, there’s a 97% chance you’re only using two pedals.

National Stick Shift Day is July 16th. It started in 2018 as a way to encourage cars with a clutch pedal. However, the battle to shift your own gears is being lost.

The front lines

Standing strong in the fight is Nick Mortensen, riding in his 1979 Chevrolet Camaro.

“A guy offered to buy it off me a couple of days ago,” he said.

He’s working his clutch and fourspeed shifter. For him, driving a stick shift is more fun. 

“And I think more useful,” he added. “It’s less hard on your brakes.”

If your battery or starter goes out, you can pushstart a manual. And you can still spin tires with a smaller engine, like in a Jetta.

Jetta spins tires. (Brian Champagne/KSL NewsRadio)

Jetta Interior. (Brian Champagne/KSL NewsRadio)

16-year-old Max Frazier is shopping for a used car with a clutch.

“They’re cooler than automatic, by far,” he said. “There’s cool stuff you can do that only a stick shift can do.”

But you have to drive it more. Like in a threewheeled, notop Polaris Slingshot.

Polaris Slingshot (Brian Champagne/KSL NewsRadio)

“It’s that highlyengaged driving experience,” said Joey Lindahl from Polaris Marketing. Their dealers gave lessons on how to drive a stick until they finally came out with a shiftforyou in 2020.

“Prior to that, the number one request we were getting from owners was some sort of automated option,” she explained.

Preserving the stick shift legacy

“We’ve even stuck with manual transmission on Corolla, which adds another element of funtodrive,” said Mortensen. 

That was Toyota Product Planning in 2021. They killed the manual Corolla this year. Carmax said 2.4% of the cars they sold were manuals in 2020, down from a fourth in
1995. Worldwide, manuals are 36% of the market. But not in the U.S. Joe Serda from Cheyenne, WY
said that it has to do with the laziness of Americans nowadays.

There are no halfton or heavyduty trucks you can shift yourself, and there are about 30 cars left you can buy with the option.

To Alan Macey, things were looking bleak. Macey was designing cars when he saw future models coming without the threepedal option.

“It really just started out as a tshirt idea,” he explained.

Now, he runs the Manual Gearbox Preservation Society.

“Manual transmissions are going away because car companies are in the business of making money,” he said. “To make money selling cars, you have to simplify the variations in the product. And if not a lot of people are buying something then it goes away.”

Macey said the Manual Gearbox Preservation Society is careful not to have a “Holier than Thou” attitude because some people are sensitive that they can’t drive stickshifts.

A last stand?

Justin Steiger of Ogden can and does like to drive stick, so he put a fivespeed manual in his police carlooking 2005 Ford Crown Victoria.

Justin Steiger and his 2005 Ford Crown Victoria (Brian Champagne/KSL NewsRadio)

“With a stick shift, you have to kind of feel your car and know what it’s doing.”

His 14-year-old daughter’s next.

Charlotte Steiger. (Brian Champagne/KSL NewsRadio)

“It’s exciting to learn stick,” she said. 

Ben Crockett of College Ward bought a Mazda Miata off a guy who changed the transmission to a manual.

Ben Crockett in his Mazda Miata (Brian Champagne/KSL NewsRadio)

“Makes a car ten times more enjoyable,” he said.

For about 2% of us, and declining.

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National stick shift day: A losing battle?