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keep on rowing

Here in the year 2020, the manual transmission is an endangered species. There are still some great cars out there that offer stick shifts, but once-stalwart brands like Audi, BMW, and Subaru have all but abandoned them. Jeep didn’t bother pairing one with its best Wrangler; even the new Corvette has taken the dual-clutch automatic route. Many of those decisions, ominously, were dictated not by technological requirements, but by demand; buyers simply haven’t been choosing to row-their-own in the numbers they once did.

Volkswagen, however, has been a notable exception to this abandon-stick trend. You won’t find a six-speed manual on an Atlas, but budget cars like the Golf and Jetta and performance cars like the new GTI and Golf R still have them.

And it seems we can expect that situation to continue for some time to come. In a recent interview, Volkswagen technical chief Matthias Rabe told Autocar that “as long as there is a demand, we will continue to offer [manual gearboxes].”

How that sentiment meshes with Volkswagen’s commitment to an electric future…well, that’s a little unclear. (Electric cars rarely use transmissions; the sole new passenger EV to do so today is the Porsche Taycan, and it uses a simple two-speed automatic for improved acceleration.) But VW is one of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers; the company has the bandwidth to be an SUV manufacturer in America, a small car manufacturer in Europe, a truck manufacturer on other continents and a major EV player in all locales. Keeping around stick shifts should be pretty easy.

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Tyler Duffy

Tyler Duffy is Gear Patrol’s Motoring Staff Writer. He used to write about sports for The Big Lead and The Athletic. He has a black belt in toddler wrangling. He’s based outside Detroit.

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