From SPORK Marketing …
Arrgh! Please don’t tell us Wrangler stick shifts have become dinosaurs!
Are the days of a manual gearbox in the Jeep Wrangler numbered?
A recent study of Jeep Wrangler availability and sales reveals a steep decline in the consumer choice of manual transmissions since 2006. A report published through Spork Marketing reveals how dramatic that change has been.
They reported that a team from Sam’s 4x4 – using data collected from Cars.com and Autotrader – found that only 3,973 of more than 20,000 JK/JKU Wranglers sold in the current sales period, had manual transmissions.
Startled by the starkness of that number, they decided to chart the availability of Wranglers with manual transmissions from the last year of the Jeep Wrangler TJ (2006) to the last full year of the Jeep Wrangler JK/JKU (2017) – to see just how far that choice had swung.
The chart reveals that a relatively high 56 percent of all Wranglers available since 2006 are equipped with manual transmissions indicating the high popularity of the manual gearbox on earlier mid-2000 Wranglers.
Looking at 2017 sales of new Jeep Wranglers – they found that the consumer choice of the manual gear box had dropped to just over 19 percent.
Though several factors influence this change, the leading reason by far is that the Jeep Wrangler has become more mainstream as an everyday driver to a much wider demographic. A considerable number of that wider demographic will never use their Wrangler off-road. They want the rugged look and feel of a Wrangler – but want it with the convenience of an automatic transmission for their (mostly) everyday around town driving.
In addition, with the overall decline of manual gear boxes across all consumer automotive segments, that wider demographic is also made up of many fewer drivers knowing how to drive a stick shift. That includes a fair number of those who would like to do more off-roading but are constrained by their inability to proficiently handle a manual gear box.
Then what about off-roading you say. For those using a Jeep Wrangler primarily as an off-roader, aren’t manual gear boxes the best choice for conquering the mud, snow, water and rocks of the hills and valleys of the outback?
The answer is not necessarily any more.
Technology advances in the mechanics of off-road driving have empowered a shift to more automatic transmissions for off-road. Most directly has been the development of the automatic transmission with eight gears and its efficient ‘intelligent’ integration with ever-more advanced and automated off-road drive systems.
Supported by those enabling technologies that make off-road drivetrains evermore capable, the complexities and challenges of off-road driving have been made a lot easier for just about anyone.
“More and more, we can’t find real value in manual transmissions,” says John Guffey, General Manager at Sam’s 4x4. “As off-road enthusiasts, we don’t understand why you’d risk losing your position on a rock or getting stuck in rough terrain just to use a laborious heel-toe-shift operation. Automatic transmissions get better all the time, and many of our customers prefer keeping two hands on the wheel.”
The Sam’s 4x4 study showed that, since the 2007 introduction of the Wrangler JK, automatic transmissions are increasing in popularity for both off-roaders and city drivers. A review of the 2017 JKU Wranglers listed on Cars.com and Autotrader, showed whopping 81 percent with automatic transmissions.
“An automatic is great if you’ve stopped on a slick rock and need to get moving again,” Guffey says. “Our experience is an automatic also keeps better momentum through snow, sand, and mud.”
Manual gearbox still available
The iconic 6-speed manual gearbox is still available. In fact, it is standard in the new Wrangler JL with the automatic transmission being available for another $2,000.
Interestingly, even with 19 percent of buyers choosing the stick shift, the folks at Sam’s 4x4 are of the mindset that the manual gearbox’s time is already gone.
“We see the newer automatic transmissions as real progress for off-road vehicles. Frankly, we were surprised how many manual transmissions Jeep makes available these days and think the standard stick shift will soon be gone altogether,” Guffey says. “It had a good, long run but needs to retire.”
We are not sure we agree with their conclusion that it needs to retire. What do you think? Will there always be a place for the manual gearbox in a factory produced Jeep Wrangler?
Learn more about the 2018 Jeep Wrangler here: https://www.jeep.com/wrangler.html
More about Sam’s 4x4 can be found here: https://sams4x4.com/
SPORK Marketing / Sam’s 4x4 / Jeep Wrangler and the manual transmission