It's getting harder and harder to find vehicles with manual transmissions in auto showrooms, anyone who's recently shopped for a new car knows. But with the preponderance of automatic cars comes an advantage for the stick-shift driver, as a car thief is less likely to have the skills to pilot your vehicle.
Anyone who's watched The Amazing Race knows how this goes: person who's only driven automatics gets into a car and has to make a fast getaway, only to have their plans shattered because the car they're in has a standard transmission. That's exactly what happened in Concord yesterday morning, when an armed carjacker had to give up his heist when he couldn't figure out how to drive a stick.
According to the Contra Costa Times, it was 12:15 a.m. when a man got in his car, only to find a stranger with a gun sitting in the passenger seat, apparently trying to either steal or burglarize the car.
After forcing the driver from the car at gunpoint, the carjacker tried to take off in the vehicle, but had to flee on foot because, says Concord police Lt. Tim Runyon, "he couldn't operate a standard transmission."
In a Fox news report from September, they say that "only around 10 percent of vehicles made in North America now have manual transmissions, down from 35 percent in 1980."
Does that mean fewer people know how to drive stick? Research on that is unclear, but it seems possible. Are some of this stick-ignorant folks car thieves? It sure looks like it!
Anecdotally, I'll tell you that one of my driver's ed (summer of 1988!) instructors told us that we didn't need to learn to drive a stick, because "by the time you can afford to buy a car, they'll only be making automatics." When I repeated this assertion to my mother, she laughed, said "at the rate you're going, you'll never be able to afford a car," yet taught me to drive a stick that very day.
(Turns out, neither the driver's ed teacher nor my mom had a complete grasp on the future: manufacturers were still making manuals when I bought my first new car, a 1991 Geo Metro. But, yes, I opted for the stick shift.)
Anyway, back to the present: Runyon says that the carjacking suspect was a 25 (or so) year old Hispanic man standing about 5'8" and weighing 160 pounds. He has a thin mustache, and wore a black hat, a baggy white T-shirt, a black sweater and jeans.
He hasn't been nabbed at publication time, but was last seen — on foot — on the 1500 block of Monument Boulevard in Concord.