I came across some figures recently that gave a bit of information on just how much the marketplace has changed.
We seem to be at the point now that just about 1 percent of new cars sold have standard transmissions. It has taken almost a century, but it looks like the automatic transmission has just about eliminated stick shifts. I may be the only one left who remembers learning how to drive on a manual transmission car. My first car, a '51 Ford, had a manual gearbox and so did several cars that followed.
Also in the running for least-popular powertrain: electric cars. EVs accounted for less than 2 percent of new-car sales, according to reports on the recent J.D. Power study. And most of those came from Tesla and its unorthodox sales channel.
It seems to me that the push for electric vehicles comes from Europe, where the political pressure for electrics is enormous, and from China, which hopes its own companies can seize the technological lead. It does not seem to matter what the public is interested in buying — manufacturers are bringing out huge numbers of new electric vehicles under pressure from governments everywhere except North America — at least so far.
It will be very interesting to watch the United States and see how consumers react to all the new electric vehicles becoming available. To make it more interesting, there are several commercial vehicle manufacturers who are jumping into the marketplace. They may have a better chance of success, but only time will tell.
Unlike Europe and other economies around the world, the domestic marketplace will eventually decide on products and the mix. Whether it is electric, gasoline, diesel or even hydrogen, it will be impossible in the U.S. to mandate power plants.
Although it will take many years for Americans to decide how they want to power their vehicles, they have already decided strongly that the future does not bode well for stick-shift cars.
And that is a shame for those of us with long memories.