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The number of gears a transmission has affects a vehicle's fuel economy and performance. The more gears a vehicle has, the more time the engine spends within an optimal operating range while the vehicle speeds up and slows down. To achieve a better match between engine speed and wheel speed, manufacturers have been increasing the number of gears in the vehicles offered. In model year 1979, the average number of gears in new light vehicles sold was just over 3, and that average rose only to about 4 gears for the next two decades. But beginning in 2001, the number climbed from about 4 gears to nearly 6 gears in model year 2012.

Average Number of Gears for New Light Vehicles, Model Years 1979-2012
Graph showing average number of gears for new light vehicles for model years 1979 to 2012. See table below for more detailed information.

Supporting Information

Average Number of Gears for New Light Vehicles, Model Years 1979-2012
Model Year Average Number of Gears
1979 3.3
1980 3.5
1981 3.5
1982 3.6
1983 3.7
1984 3.7
1985 3.8
1986 3.8
1987 3.9
1988 3.9
1989 3.9
1990 4.0
1991 4.0
1992 4.0
1993 4.0
1994 4.1
1995 4.1
1996 4.1
1997 4.1
1998 4.1
1999 4.1
2000 4.1
2001 4.2
2002 4.2
2003 4.3
2004 4.4
2005 4.5
2006 4.6
2007 4.8
2008 4.8
2009 5.0
2010 5.2
2011 5.6
2012 5.7
Source: Environmental Protection Agency, Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 through 2012, EPA-420-S-13-001, March 2013.

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