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Manual cars could vanish within 5 years as manufacturers cut back on manual models

By Mathilda Bartholomew | May 7, 2024

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The availability of manual gearbox options from the UK's top car brands has dropped to just 89 models, down from 194 in 2018

Manual cars could vanish within 5 years as manufacturers cut back on manual models

In recent years, the automotive industry has seen a notable shift away from manual gearboxes in favour of automatic transmissions. According to a recent analysis by CarGurus, the number of new cars available with manual gearboxes has more than halved (-55%) in the past six years alone.

CarGurus' study involved a detailed analysis of new car models available over the past decade from the U.K.'s top 30 most popular car brands. The findings reveal a stark decline in the availability of manual transmission options.

In 2016, car buyers had a choice of 197 new models with manual gearboxes. Fast forward to 2024, and that number has dwindled to just 89—a substantial 55% decrease. The decline, which had been relatively stable between 2014 and 2018, intensified after 2018. Since 2023 alone, there has been an 18% drop in new models featuring a manual gearbox.

CarGurus predicts that if this trend continues, manual transmissions could become extinct by 2029, with only a few niche models hanging on.

Several factors are driving this shift. First, major manufacturers like Volvo, Mercedes, Jaguar, and Lexus have ceased offering any new models with manual gearboxes. Even among the popular car brands that still provide manual options, the choices are becoming increasingly limited. Brands like Jeep, Land Rover, MINI, and Honda now offer just one manual gearbox option in their entire range.

BRAND(UK’S 30 MOST POPULAR) NUMBER OF NEW MODELS AVAILABLE WITH A MANUAL GEARBOX TODAY:
Volkswagen Amarok, Caddy California, Golf, Polo, Taigo, T-Cross, Tiguan, Touran, Transporter, T-Roc
Ford Ecosport, Fiesta, Focus, Kuga, Puma, Ranger
Audi A1, A3, Q2
BMW 1 Series, 2 Series, M2
Toyota Aygo X, Hilux, ProAce
Kia Ceed, Picanto, Sportage, Stonic
Vauxhall Astra, Corsa, Crossland, Grandland, Mokka
Nissan Juke, Qashqai
Mercedes-Benz -
Hyundai Bayon, i10, i20, i30, Kona, Tucson
MG MG3, MG HS, MG ZS
Skoda Fabia, Kamiq, Karoq, Octavia, Scala
Peugeot 208, 5008, 2008, 3008
Land Rover Evoque
Volvo -
Tesla -
Mini Hatch
Renault Captur, Clio
SEAT Arona, Ateka, Ibiza, Leon, Tarraco
Citroen C3, C4, C5
Mazda CX-30, CX-5, MX-5, Mazda2, Mazda3,
Dacia Duster, Jogger, Sandero
Suzuki Ignis, Jimny, Swift, SX4, Vitara
CUPRA Formentor, Leon
Honda Civic
Porsche Boxster, Cayman, 911
FIAT 500, Panda, Tipo
Lexus -
Jaguar -
Jeep Avenger
TOTAL: 89

Volkswagen leads the pack with 10 new models featuring a manual gearbox, followed by Ford and Hyundai with six each. This dwindling availability of manual transmissions aligns with a broader trend—the rise of automatic-only driving tests.

DVSA data indicates a significant increase in U.K. drivers taking automatic-only driving tests over the past decade. In 2012/2013, there were 87,844 such tests conducted, a number that skyrocketed by 269% to 324,064 tests in 2022/2023. This surge in automatic-only drivers could be contributing to the declining demand for manual gearboxes.

Despite these changes, opting for a manual gearbox still has its advantages. CarGurus' analysis found that buyers can save up to £3,466 on average by choosing a used model with a manual gearbox over an automatic one. This potential 14% in savings highlights the continued appeal of manual transmissions for cost-conscious consumers.

Chris Knapman, Editorial Director at CarGurus U.K., provides insight into the future of manual gearboxes: “Between the increasing consumer demand for cars with an automatic gearbox and the rapid expansion of new EV models coming to market, we could be approaching the end of the road for the manual gearbox.

“Historically, manual gearboxes have found favour for their lower cost compared to automatics, as well as their more responsive nature and improved fuel economy. However, updates in technology mean that many modern automatics are at least as efficient as a manual alternative, and much more responsive than the systems fitted in years gone by.

“It is likely that manual gearboxes will continue to hold a special place in the hearts of enthusiast drivers for the greater interaction they offer. And of course, manual cars will continue to be in strong supply on the used market in years to come. For those prepared to change gears themselves, opting for a manual car can also be a shrewd money-saving move, with our analysis showing prices for used models are up to £3,466 (14%) lower on average compared with an automatic.”

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