Sports car enthusiasts have been lamenting the fact that the manual transmission has been steadily disappearing for years, with fewer and fewer models holding onto this standard shifting method. The Corvette has been one of the bastions for manual transmission fans, which offered a manual box on every trim level of the seventh generation car, including the 755 horsepower C7 Corvette ZR1. This allegedly changes with the C8 Corvette.
According to a report by Motor Authority, Corvette Chief Engineer has confirmed the C8 Corvette will absolutely not be available with a manual. While this news isn’t entirely surprising, it doesn’t soften the blow for manual enthusiasts. Adding insult to injury, Tadge Juechter, the aforementioned Corvette Chief Engineer, said that manufacturers building manual transmissions is “a dying business.”
Juechter specifically pointed to the decline in manual transmission take rates on the Corvette, which dropped to 15 percent over the past year. For 2016 Corvettes, that number was 23 percent. And when the C7 was introduced in the 2014 model year, that number was as high as 40 percent. All of these numbers are well above the industry average take rate of 5-7 percent for a stick shift.
Juechter noted that General Motors would have to develop a second bespoke transmission for the C8 Corvette, which was a hard sell for suppliers, and the financial implications start to show. That said, GM has patented a clutch-by-wire transmission system, which is believed to be intended for the mid-engine Corvette and its highly complex Global B electronics architecture. However, the packaging of the new C8’s center console doesn’t seem to even allow space for a gear lever, slimming the chances of a manual transmission possibility.
It’s nevertheless true that there are very few sports cars that are being offered with a manual transmission, and even fewer still of a mid-engined layout. Recently, we saw Toyota release the new Supra as an automatic only, and the upcoming Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is following suit with its seven-speed DCT. Lotus and Porsche will sell you manual cars with the engine in the middle, but the cost of entry is much higher. And in the case of Porsche, some signs are pointing to utter defiance of the market data.
When the 991.1 Porsche 911 GT3 was announced as automatic only, the brands loyal manual fans cried out with disappointment. The GT3 is a raw car, with a focus on hard driving and purity. Porsche believed that the track focused nature of the car lent itself to chasing lap times, and it was for this reason that they ditched the “inadequate” manual option.
However, Porsche customers had a different view, believing that the manual transmission only enhanced the driving experience in a GT3.
When Porsche updated the GT3 during a mid-cycle refresh, the manual was back, and now nearly two thirds of all GT models are sold with a manual transmission. When Porsche unveiled the new GT-car inspired 718 twins, they released the cars as manual only.
Perhaps Chevrolet will make a similar maneuver in the years to come, depending on how well the Tremec DCT is received by the public. But for now, it is clear that America’s sports car is a two peddled machine.