2012 Volkswagen Golf R

Automakers Are Listening, Though

Audi’s internal debate on the A3 is typical for the wider auto industry. The number of manual-transmission devotees is not insignificant, and the degree of passion among them is extreme. To wit: A reader e-mailed to tell us about his new petition on Change.org, which demands a stick from Audi in the A3 sedan. Other automakers have responded to public cries in the recent past. Hearing demand from California, Ford began offering the top-trim Titanium model of the Focus with a manual, an inexpensive move, since no new regulatory work had to be done. Kia, too, got the message that people wanted three pedals in nicely equipped Rio SXs, and built 400 to meet demand. That’s a tiny run of cars—again, not expensive, since a manual was already certified for the econobox-spec Rio—but it underscores Kia’s interest in placating the nutters among us. On the other hand, Infiniti just killed the stick option for the G37-cum-Q50, telling us this week that nobody was buying them.

Hearing the Kia and Ford stories does raise questions about why Audi won’t just, well, give in. Isn’t the brand image worth the investment? There’s probably a spreadsheet, buried on a computer alongside another file with paint-color survey results, that quantifies the potential fandom in dollars and cents, and concludes that the goodwill of offering a stick-shift A3 is still too pricey.

  • Photos and Info: 2015 Audi A3 Sedan / S3 Sedan
  • Comparison Test: 2013 Ford Focus ST vs. 2012 Volkswagen GTI
  • Instrumented Test: 2013 Audi S5 3.0T Manual

Like the recent rise in popularity for straight razors, grass-fed beef, or small-batch bourbon, the intensity and spread of enthusiasm for manual transmissions in part signals appreciation for old-school, “I’ll do it my damn self” thinking. BMW offers a manual in the M5 and M6 only in the U.S. solely because American purists demanded it do so. Read Audi’s decision on the A3 as a reason to keep up the fight—they did hear us, it just didn’t work this time. Because we enthusiast are not just saving the manuals, we’re pumping in new life.

By Justin Berkowitz