End of an Era: No More Stick Shifts

February 19, 2009
The year 2008 marked the end of lots of things: fat-cat bonuses, careless spending, the last glimmer of solvency in Detroit. And in the world of full-size trucks, it was the end of the stick shift.

When Dodge introduced its new 2009 Ram with its impressive capabilities, power, and nifty fender boxes, that third pedal on the left was left without a seat in the musical chairs. That's right, the outgoing 2008 Dodge Ram became the last full-size truck to offer a stick shift. Sad times indeed.

I suppose the focus groups have spoken. The marketing people gave their presentations, and concluded that based on a representative sampling of the truck-buying public (perhaps 10 people) of millions, not enough buyers wanted the option to shift their full-sized truck all by themselves.

Chevy stopped giving their buyers the choice two model generations ago. Ford gave up even longer ago. Nissan and Toyota gave it up too. Heck, Nissan may even give up the option to make their own truck themselves soon, too.

Does this bother anyone? I'm well aware that stick shifts aren't ideal for a lot of truck uses, such as towing, or spending 15 hours a day behind the wheel in your work truck. I'm not saying there is a huge demand for manual transmissions in full-size trucks. But it must be there.

Stick shifts are about control. They're about skill. Machismo even. They can help drivers so inclined to get slightly better mileage--by driving style, and by saving weight over the heavy automatic transmission. And if I'm not mistaken, isn't "slightly better mileage" a big deal these days? Isn't saving $1,000 to $1,500 by not getting the automatic a decent idea?

But I'm just one person. But then again, in a focus group, I actually could be 100,000 people. I could be 10% of the truck buying market.

I thought Dodge was clever by offering the only manual transmission in the market. I guess I was wrong.

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