Those still tirelessly championing the #SaveTheManuals movement, congratulations on a job well done. According to JD Power statistics for the US shared by the Wall Street Journal, sales of vehicles with manual transmission has already gone up by 41.7% in 2023, compared to last year.
Now, okay, that’s maybe somewhat of a disingenuous way to represent the data, when it’s only 1.7% of all cars sold. But look – the figure was only at 0.9% just some three years ago in 2019, so we consider that a massive win already.
The boost in sales wasn’t just limited to new cars, either. In the US, Autotrader marketplace reported a 13% rise in page views for manual cars in 2023 compared to the same time last year. Similarly, if you’ve ever trawled through the classifieds here in Malaysia, you’ll know that manual cars somehow command a higher price over their automatic counterparts – I’d know that, as I myself have been looking for a used Toyota 86.
“What on earth is happening?” you may ask. Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, it’s because of the Gen Zs. No, seriously – statistics apparently back this claim up: Acura reported that over half of those buying the manual Integra are aged between 18 and 46 years old, while Mazda says about a quarter of those who bought manual MX-5s in the States last year were aged between 18 and 35.
We unfortunately don’t have the same kind of detailed data for our Malaysian car market, but through anecdotal data, I can already think of two fellows around my age (late-millenial) who just bought themselves a fancy manual car.
I’d argue, however, that it’s much more than just the Gen Zs. The new manual cars offered here in Malaysia are nearly all enthusiast grade, with prices north of RM300k – not many Gen Zs can afford a car that expensive. Yet, carmakers like Toyota are still bringing in new models like the GR86 and GR Supra, because there are people buying them.
RELATED: 2023 Toyota GR Corolla launched in Malaysia, RM355k 6-speed manual hot hatch
Much like the resurgence of vinyl records, or the rise of mechanical keyboards, people these days increasingly crave for physical things that can give them an anologue feel. The manual gearbox in the automotive world is like what the mechanical watches are to timepieces; it might be less accurate than a smartwatch, but it’s the theatrics, the involvement, that make them such prized possessions within the community.
No matter the reason, though, we’re just really happy to see people finally buying manuals again. With electrification coming thick and fast these days, who knows if this might actually be your last chance to buy a brand-new car with a manual gearbox.
Now, as for that Toyota 86…