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Will the manual survive?

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Updated 10 Oct 2019

Rachel White

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Straight up, I confess I am a manual fan all the way. If I purchase a car, it needs to have three pedals and a gear stick. Weekend road trips just wouldn’t be the same without one. It’s not that I haven’t driven autos - there have been a couple bestowed upon me - but staying awake in either of them took a lot of effort.

Frankly, it’s a scary thought that the passing of the manual transmission could come to fruition. However, it simply is true that most people are choosing automatics and lovers of the manual transmission seem to be few and far between.

But why are manual sales dwindling so quickly? Some of the downward trend can be blamed on the increase in metropolitan traffic, the rise of smarter automatics, an aging population and the fact that most young drivers don’t seem to want to take on the challenge of learning the skills to drive a manual. When you think about it, there are some reasonable grounds to be afraid of the venerable manual.

Hill starts

: In the old days, the thought of mastering the clutch, accelerator and handbrake without stalling and/or rolling into someone was a little scary. Enough to put some people off it seems. Nowadays, manuals can come with hill assist control, making ‘hill start panic’ a thing of the past. However, that particular feature may have come too late to save the day.

Stop-start traffic

: Working the pedals in heavy traffic can be something of a pain . . . literally. Who hasn’t had a muscle tweak in the left leg/foot after working that clutch endlessly for an hour in crawling traffic? The challenge is to anticipate the traffic flow and creep along at the right speed, never having to stop. Another skill that will disappear perhaps?


: It does take a little more effort to drive a manual and there’s no doubt that autos are a cruisier option. Safer too maybe? If there is one less skill to master, a driver can concentrate on other aspects of their driving. With an aging population, autos are also a more attractive option for those wanting to avoid body aches and pains.

Quicker to learn in an auto

: Passing a driving test as soon as possible with the least effort is another attractive option. Since parents are often busy and driver training is expensive, a young person will surely opt for a cheaper and easier alternative.

More autos on the market

: It’s getting more difficult to find manuals for sale - even older, used cars. Why? Either they’ve all been written off or the owners are hanging onto them for dear life! Whatever the reason, most people aren’t willing to search for months on end for a manual and will settle for an auto.


- What not to do in a manual


The number one reason for the demise of the manual is technology. There are now a slew of high-tech systems out there that simply work better with an auto - from automatic emergency braking to adaptive cruise control to automatic parking systems and a heap of others.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. In a future where electric vehicles (no gear range required) and autonomous cars (no human interaction required) will be the norm, there is just no need for a manual transmission.

The reality

Automatic transmissions work better with the advanced technologies available in today’s vehicles and with those that are in the pipeline. This is where the future lies, and it can really mean only one thing - a few years from now the manual transmission will be all but dead. Believe me, it pains me greatly to say this.

There will, no doubt, be some manufacturers that will keep up the manual transmission tradition, but these will likely be only for tradition’s sake - a shout-out to a time gone by and an ever-diminishing group of manual loyalists. I’m one of them, and all we can do is enjoy the ride for as long as we can.

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Written By

Rachel White

Rachel spent her early adult life around cars, motorsport and hands-on with her own cars. This interest moved into various careers within the Automotive industry. Joined with her passion for writing, Rachel loves putting the two together to share her experience, so we can all become AutoGuru’s.