Toyota rubbed a small but vocal group of enthusiasts the wrong way when it announced plans not to launch the 2020 Supra with a manual transmission. It's all automatic, all the time. Whether the company will change its mind during the car's production run is up in the air, so a Texas-based tuning shop named European Auto Group (EAG) took the matter into its own hands. You might assume a shop called Japanese Auto Group would handle the conversion, but remember that the Supra has a European heart. Its 3.0-liter straight-six engine comes from the BMW parts bin. Most of the bits and pieces needed to make a stick-shifted Supra wear a BMW parts number, according to CarBuzz, including the six-speed manual transmission. They're off-the-shelf components. The shift lever is the only custom-made part; it will be inspired by the cool, flip-up unit found in the GR HV Sports concept introduced during the 2017 Tokyo auto show. EAG has started the first conversion, and it's taking $6,000 deposits from customers who wish to see an extra pedal in their Supra's footwell. It pegged the swap's total cost in the vicinity of $12,000, and it warned the process takes between 30 and 45 days. To sweeten the deal, EAG enlisted the help of Canadian BMW tuner ProTuning Freaks to give the Supra more power. Supra models that go through EAG's shop for a transmission swap will leave it with about 425 horsepower, a 90-horse increase compared to the stock model. There's no word on where the extra power comes from, but EAG owner Art Bartosik told CarBuzz he has personally put over 40,000 miles on ProTuning Freak-modified BMWs without experiencing problems. That's reassuring, especially considering the transmission swap and the engine tune undoubtedly void the Supra's powertrain warranty. Speaking of, EAG is in the process of creating a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty for the cars it modifies. Installing a manual transmission in a car developed with an automatic in mind is a complicated, time-consuming project. The transmission might not fit into the original tunnel, the new pedal box might not line up with the old one's mounting points, space needs to be cleared in the engine bay for a master cylinder, and odds are the driveshaft needs to be modified. EAG specializes in installing manual transmission in high-end cars like the Ferrari 458 and the Lamborghini Huracán, so it's better positioned than most to give Supra enthusiasts the six-speed stick they've been lobbying for.
Automakers are continuing to give us a peek at the popularity, or lack thereof, of the manual transmission. Our latest information comes from Subaru, which kindly shared its manual transmission take-rate numbers for 2018. One of the most interesting tidbits was that 78% of Subaru BRZs sold had a manual. What makes that so curious is its stark contrast to its twin, the Toyota 86, where only 33% of those sold in 2018 had a manual. On top of that, the BRZ has a stronger manual take-rate than the enthusiast darling Mazda Miata; the soft top had 76% of buyers going for a stick, and the RF had 52%. If we had to speculate, it seems the Subaru BRZ is attracting the hardcore sports car fans.
Although the BRZ manual sales are strong, it isn't the model that sells the most. The Subaru WRX tops it with 90% of buyers picking the manual over the CVT option. We of course suspect that plenty of regular WRX buyers are opting for the manual, though the number is likely partly boosted by the fact the STI version is only available with a manual.
We've had quite a bit of news about manual transmission take rates this week. On the disappointing side, we learned that Toyota doesn't sell many manuals in the models it offers them, and even the 86 sports car is sold more with the automatic. On the encouraging side, most people still buy Miatas with a manual. Now we have data from Honda that's partly encouraging and partly discouraging: it sold more manuals in 2018 than 2017, but the portion of overall sales is still small.
We'll focus on the good news first. Honda sold 30 percent more manual transmission-equipped cars in 2018 than in 2017 for a total of 45,601 cars. Making that number even more impressive is the fact that the Honda brand's total sales for the year went down by 2.2 percent.
Earlier, we wrote about Toyota's underwhelming 2018 manual transmission sales figures. To recap – as Toyota's representatives told CarBuzz – the automatic Corolla outsold its manual equivalent to a ratio of 100 to 1, and just one in three Toyota 86 buyers picked a manual version of the rear-drive coupe.
What about the other famous rear-wheel-drive offering from Japan, Mazda's MX-5 Miata? A case can be made that an 86 buyer cross-shops the Miata, and vice-versa, but what kind of split do Mazda's sales figures reflect in comparison?
It probably comes as no surprise that manual transmissions are on uncertain ground these days. Fewer models are offered with them, and public perception is that rowing-your-own is more of an enthusiast thing. But carmakers do not stick with automatics for no reason: expected and realized demand tells manufacturers if it's worth engineering a three-pedal variant. A good example is the new Toyota Supra, which only comes as automatic. There's surely a justified reason for the omission of a manual option, especially when we take a look at these manual take-rate figures provided by CarBuzz.
You can buy the Corolla sedan and hatch as a manual, just like the Tacoma, Yaris sedan and the 86 coupe. CarBuzz discussed the manual gearboxes' popularity with a Toyota representative at a Supra launch event, and the numbers are telling.
Update: We got wind of what Mazda had in store for the 2019 Mazda 6 in this report from last week, and now we have all the official information from Mazda. The news on the manual transmission's disappearance is still true — 2018 model year cars will be the last ones that make that an option. There are a few changes Mazda has implemented for this model year, and a slight price adjustment that goes with.
The addition of Mazda's i-Activsense safety tech as standard is confirmed. As is G-Vectoring Control Plus, the next generation of Mazda's G-Vectoring we saw hit the CX-5 for the 2019 model year. Pricing has been adjusted to reflect the extra standard equipment and elimination of the manual transmission. A base (manual) 2018 Mazda 6 Sport costs $22,845 with its $895 destination fee, but the new 2019 model begins at $24,720 with the $920 destination fee included. That's a considerable increase, but the charge for an automatic transmission was $1,050 of that previously. Higher trim levels don't experience as much of a hike. For example, the maxed-out Signature is only $375 more expensive in 2019, coming in at $36,020 total. Mazda says the 2019 Mazda 6 goes on sale this month. It's a little surprising that 2019 model year Mazda 6s weren't already on sale, but mid-year updates or late introductions aren't exactly out of the norm for Mazda.