Penny-Pinchers Not Flocking to Stripped Models


Skipping amenities such as an automatic transmission, air conditioning, and power windows and locks — features that can inflate the price of a small car more than $2,000 — can make a new vehicle more affordable.

Finding a stripped car with a manual transmission and crank windows, though, is becoming more of a challenge.

Automatic transmissions were standard on 89% of the vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, up from 85% in 2003, according to JATO Dynamics, an Auburn Hills, Mich., firm that compiles such statistics. Power locks were standard on 87%, compared to 80% in 2003.

Small cars are among the vehicles where such features still tend to be optional, but even when given a choice economy-car buyers often pick comfort and convenience over cost.

Toyota's cheapest model is the Yaris, which starts at $11,550 for a base 2008 hatchback with standard air conditioning. About 80% of Yaris buyers plunk down $900 more for an automatic, and 60% buy power windows and locks, part of a $1,680 option package.

The 2008 Hyundai Accent starts at an enticing $10,970 for a base GS hatchback, but that means a stick shift, manual windows and locks, and no A/C or stereo.

Hyundai says only 4% of Accents sell that way, and 96% of buyers opt for air conditioning (available in a $1,570 package that also includes a stereo), 78% choose to add the automatic ($1,000) and 42% go for power windows and locks (packaged with A/C, a stereo and other options for $1,970).

Mark Dipko, Accent product planning manager, said automatic transmissions, air conditioning and radios are "necessities that most people don't want to do without," but that low-priced cars such as the Accent attract those who "are counting every penny.”

"There's just not that many of them," he said.

The high rate of opting for automatic transmissions in these cars may also be due to the fact that many of today’s advanced automatics return similar or even better mileage compared with manual transmissions. Just a few years ago, that was rarely the case.

Apparently, Hyundai has seen enough penny-pinching shoppers to add a base Accent four-door for 2009 that won't have standard air conditioning or a radio, to see if cost-conscious sedan buyers will go for another basic model.

By Rick Popely | August 27, 2008 | Comments (24)
Tags: Car Buying



The manufacturers advertise the base price in their television ads just to get you in and then they find out that you can't get one at that price and it's without anything on it. Or they advertise that a certain model "has the lowest price in it's class" and they even compare it to other models. Just have to read through the B.S.


^ I was thinking the same thing when I was reading this article.


It's true people don't want cars with cheap transmissions. Crappy manuals in Accents and Yarises don't inspire confidence. What is the percentage of Civics that are sold with manuals? My guess is it's a better number than the Yaris, but not much more than the Accent.

As far as AC, who would buy a car without it? It kills resale.

Finally the demise of the manual can also be attributed to Americans' laziness and the lack of them being offered on new models. I don't drive a stick because of a mileage savings, I drive it because it's fun.



Some manuals get worse mileage than the auto counterparts.
Thus, some are really buying the best of both worlds.

I imagine that part of the reason people choose the automatic transmission is that an automatic is a lot easier on the calf muscles when you drive in the city or in traffic jams -- and I think a lot of people spend a lot of time in traffic jams these days.


For most makes/models it can be very hard to actually find a car with manual in stock at dealers.

Since you usually get a better deal (especially with any rebates) for buying from dealer stock, it's often more cost effective to buy the in stock auto.

The same can go for bells and whistles. Dealers very often stock the more upscale cars with electric locks and windows and have few, if any, of the base model.

I bought a new compact a little over 4 months ago. I bought one of the base models (that included A/C) with only an auto transmission. I was lucky. Today, if i check local availability of that configuration, I come up empty. All the cars in stock seem to have all sorts of stuff on them - increasing the cost, on average, about $2500.

The title of this article should be "Penny Pinchers Are Not Able to Find Stripped Models". They're not "flocking" to them because there are few of them available.


I think most dealers figure that penny pincher will go used with extras. I think paying more for an automatic is a rippoff. Everybody knows that automatic is the standard in the U.S. not the manual. The manual should be extra.

South TX

In Europe 90% of the cars are manual cars.

What I don't like it is that sometimes it is impossible to find manual cars + control cruise. I don't care about locks and powerwindows but in South Texas, the AC is a must.

I like the Escape but finding a manual with control cruise it is basically impossible, if you don't order it from factory.


You're not in Europe, you are in the USA where a huge majority prefer automatic. I simply like it better than manual trans. Most of these cars drive as well as manuals, have nearly identical mpgs and are easier to drive. Since,"90%" of those cars in Europe are manuals, I'll bet you'd have the same problems related to finding automatics with certain features. They make what sells and try at the same time to make maximum profit(that's why they bundle all of those options).


In 1987 I bought a new Camry with crank windows and a 5 speed. The only options were air conditioning and cruise. It would get 40 mpg on the highway and 29 in town from a two liter engine. Very basic model and one of the best cars I've owned.

Bate and switch, plain a simple.

I've asked 20 dealers for one of these and all of them turned me down. The power package has about a $1000 of profit so they order them all that way. There is no margin on the base models any more, they should let you order them direct from the factory.

Cruise control is the current ploy of many over the years to get you to buy the pricy luxury and convience package. Traction control and side curtain air bags are others if you really wanted them.

Red, they still make the Camray with the 4cyl and stick, they went up from about $16k to $20k in the past few years. Again good luck finding one. Most of the ones at the dealer are over $25K and have the thirsty V6.


That sounds pricey, but I'm sure they have a lot of standard safety stuff now that they didn't used to include in the basic sticker. I was lucky enough to get a Prius without all the packages a couple years ago when they were selling slower, but now that demand's back up, they all come through loaded up with options too. Hopefully they'll make more 4 cylinder Camrys if enough people want them.



But the new ones can definitely outrun the 1987 one at any stop lights.
It is due to the market's need.

My guess most people buy autos because they don't know how to drive a manual.


As i understand it, it's a little easier to buy exactly what you want in europe and other places because the car buying culture there sways far more to placing an order for exactly what you want rather than buying dealer stock.

This is partly because it's always how its been done, but also because buying a car there is a bigger proportion of your disposable income, and as such people know EXACTLY what they want, and are prepared to compromise less.


Dealers routinely sell Camrys with manual trannys here in the paper, sometimes advertised as low as $14,995. Way below market value, and yes bait-and-switch, but they do usually have them in stock. A shrewd buyer knows how to buy ad cars.

I have actually walked away from buying an ad car because it just wasn't what I wanted, but I could've bought it. They often sell by noon on the day the ad comes out.


The other big issue I have is that even in the early '90s when I did it, driver's ed only taught on automatics; I had to go out of my way to learn to drive manual. Personally, I think the law should be changed to all drivers' license applicants being REQUIRED to test on a manual shift, with only medical exemptions permitted.

Automatic transmissions are inherently more expensive to manufacture than manuals. Always have been, always will be. Why should I pay extra for something that cost the manufacturer less to produce?

I will point out that the Yaris manual is quite good, but doesn't put its' best foot forward on a new car test-drive. Until it's broken in, the clutch stalls readily and the shifter feels stiff and rubbery. Driving it 5000 miles or so cures both, nicely. Maybe Toyota dealers should add a manual Yaris to their parts-chaser fleet to have a broken-in specimen on hand for test drives?

On that point of owning one, I might also point out that I looked at at least three dealerships in VT in January when selection was still reasonable, and none of them had a Yaris harchback with the Power Package- almost 15 cars in all in stock, counting only M/T hatchbacks.


Yoda - I understand that on a 'individual' car cost basis manuals are simpler and cheaper. The problem your argument runs into is all the other costs (overhead) figured into producing a car. The manufacters chose automatics as the volume seller and therefore automatics offset the overhead costs better. If manufacters made manuals their volume seller then manuels would actually be cheaper.


My 98 Mustang has a manual transmisson and cruise control. Buy American.


Everyone says it's hard to find a stripper model, but I'll take that one step further. I went to my Honda dealer last week to try and buy a new Pilot. The dealer had 3 on the lot, all top of the line with leather, nav, rear DVD, the whole lot, none of which I wanted. True, it was the "end of the month closeout," and all three were being sold for a "good price," but I didn't want to buy something that I didn't like. The salesman also said that to special order one like I wanted would cost as much as one of the fat-cat models that was already on the lot. Hello! Automakers! Some of us actually LIKE cloth seats and being able to claim that we can still read a map rather than being at the mercy of a GPS.


If the manual transmission is being driven properly, it is impossible for an auto transmission to get better mileage. The only exception is a cvt. I challenge someone to find 1 example of a car tested by consumer reports (they're the only ones i know of that carry our real world, scientific testing) where the auto got better milage. The reason for this is that 1. Automatic transmissions are heaver 2. Auto transmissions do not change shifting very well depending on what you want the car to do 3. cannot see what's ahead on the road, so therefore cannot adjust appropriately 4.Cannot coast as efficiently(the drive shaft is always engaged if you're moving. When I drive, I can pop the car into neutral down hills, when i need to slow down, etc, and sometimes don't need to touch the gas for as much as a mile. An auto, on the other hand, would never be able to do that - it would start to engine brake long before that. Combine all that with the fact that automatic transmissions are more complicated, break more often, and cost many times the amount to repair or replace, not to mention are really boring to drive once you learn to drive a manual, and there's really no point to buying one. Except for, of course, a cvt. Not that I would want one of those anyway. And, by the way, I happen to live in Boston, so don't even bother saying anything about urban driving.

Matthew D.

"Blake", if I may be blunt, you are completely and totally incorrect. What you claim may have been true way back in the old days, but no longer. You may wish to do some research and get with the times before spewing typo-ridden, outdated opinions.

First, your odd habit of putting your transmission in neutral and coasting is illegal in most jurisdictions, annoying to other drivers, and unsafe. Further, you would decelerate much faster and with more control - not to mention saving your brake pads - if you left the vehicle in gear!

Also, it doesn't seem as if you actually understand how a transmission works - it is an automatic where the drive shaft is NOT "always engaged" - what the torque converter does is provide a fluid coupling; there is no mechanical connection between the crank and the driveshaft.

Now that automatics often have five, six, or even eight speeds, your complaints have been rendered moot. Your assertions were possibly true when there were only four, three, or even two-speed autos (i.e. Powerglide), but not anymore. Even four-speed autos have lockup torque converters now (since at least the 1980's!).

Final proof: many cars get better real-world mileage in an automatic-equipped model. As but one of numerous examples, at, the Honda Fit automatic gets 1 MPG better city, and 2 MPG better highway. That's the official "real-world" EPA rating using the new tests, and Consumer Reports backs it up.

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