Ross: Stick shifts are disappearing, so enjoy car thieves not knowing how to drive them while you can

Aug 10, 2022, 6:49 AM | Updated: 6:50 am
stick shifts...
(Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
(Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

I love the ways cars have improved in my lifetime, the safety features, the remarkable mileage, the built-in navigation, but as I become more curmudgeonly, I also have to say that it’s become almost too simple to drive.

You don’t need keys, you don’t need a map, and pretty soon you won’t even have to steer, brake, or even look at the road. And of course, almost no one has to shift anymore.

CarMax reports that the percentage of cars with a stick shift is now approaching 2%.

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Because electric cars don’t need gearboxes. There’s a prediction that Mercedes Benz will sell its last manual transmission this year, that Volkswagen retire the gearbox in 2030, and soon, we will have a generation of drivers who have no idea what their left foot is for.

We now consider manual transmissions primitive, but there was a time you could get significantly better mileage than with automatic transmissions. If you were talented with a clutch and knew how to match speeds and when to coast you could achieve amazing mileage before it was cool.

And – you had something to do with your hands and feet – especially in stop-and-go traffic. Hit the brake pull it out of gear, clutch, downshift, accelerate, clutch, upshift, hit the straightaway, overdrive – it was like slow-motion NASCAR or a sit-down ballet.

Now those skills are all but useless.

And the persistence of manual transmissions also had one other advantage – entertaining us with stories like these.

“Leaving it in neutral. They jumped out and ran, keys are in the ignition this thing is ready to go but they don’t know how to drive a manual transmission,” according to a recent news report from KIRO 7.

The stick shift would not only foil car thieves but humiliate them at the same time.

And this happened to a woman right here in the Seattle area:

“It’s hilarious to her neighbors, ‘they can’t drive a stick that’s like unmanly,’ KIRO 7 obtained this surveillance video showing them sprinting through the parking lot with one bolting and another direction from his accomplices,” the news report said.

And of course, their fingerprints were right there on the gearshift.

I’m not looking forward to self-driving cars – but if that’s to be our fate, I hope there’s a built-in feature that detects that the car is being stolen – then causes it to buck like it’s in the wrong gear, then stall out, lock the doors, then start back up, and drive the crooks straight to the police station.

While, of course, recording the whole thing.

With a laugh track.

“Not to make light of this crime but these guys really didn’t think this one through did they?” the news report said.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Stick shifts are disappearing, so enjoy car thieves not knowing how to drive them while you can