EconomyFinancialThe end of the manual transmission could come long...

The end of the manual transmission could come long before electrification

The electrification will leave some collateral effects. One of them will be the disappearance of the manual transmission, which seems to have no place in the new era of autonomous battery vehicles. The reason? Electric cars do not require a gear system because the electric motor delivers power immediately.

With the exception of one or two curiosities like the original Honda Insight or the all mild-hybrid , hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars come with an automatic gearbox. The manual box can evolve, but for now everything that does not have a pure gasoline or diesel engine comes with only two pedals. And even these models have more and more versions with automatic gearbox.

Data from the consulting firm Urban Science show that in the last year the volume of vehicles sold with manual transmission in Mexico fell 16 percentage points , going from 57% in August 2021 to 41% in August this year.

An increasingly reduced offer

An example of this change in trend is Volkswagen’s Puebla plant, where only a manual version of the Jetta is manufactured, while the rest of the versions, both of the sedan and of the Taos and Tiguan SUVs, have engines. coupled to automatic gearboxes, such as the 6-speed Tiptronic or the 7-speed DSG.

Manufacturers recognize that saying goodbye to the manual transmission is saying goodbye to a symbol. For decades it has been the favorite of driving lovers because, in a certain way, it framed a greater connection with the car and even greater driving ability. From a rational point of view, the manual transmission was also synonymous with greater fuel efficiency.

But automakers have been reducing their offerings of gasoline-powered vehicles with manual transmissions, as they advance in the development of new, more efficient and precise automatic gearboxes.

“10 years ago, the best efficiencies were found with manual gearboxes, because automatic gearboxes were still very slow and the best performance was not there. But today the best performance is found in automatic gearboxes, thanks to the fact that electronics have evolved so much that they can react in a better way”, says Alfonso Chiquini, director of marketing for Volkswagen Mexico.

Practicality or price?

In addition to electrification, practicality has been placed as another of the key factors to favor the development of the automatic transmission over the manual. A portion of gasoline car buyers are already migrating to automatic gearboxes to avoid manual shifting that can become tedious on busy drives. And manufacturers are favoring this trend.

“Today there are really very few brands that offer an SUV with a manual gearbox,” says Chiquini. The last generation of the T-Cross SUV, for example, had a version with a manual transmission, but it was eliminated in the latest update.

“Definitely comfort, not putting the clutch in very intense traffic situations in big cities, not just Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, works in favor of automatic gearboxes. Traffic conditions are becoming more intense and the need for comfort is increasing as well. This drives migration,” says Arnulfo González.

Among all the models that the firm currently has in the local market, Virtus 2023 is still offered with both transmissions, while Jetta 2022 also has a manual entry version.

Today, the manual transmission still represents a relevant percentage within the sales of the brand’s entry models. “The more accessible the price, the more manual transmissions are sold,” says González.

For example, the manual transmission version of the Jetta accounts for just 10% of total vehicle sales, up from 40%.

Will the manual transmission go away?

Volkswagen, the third best-selling brand in Mexico, anticipates that the supply of manual gearboxes will gradually decrease, as the production of electrified models increases.

“It’s definitely going down,” Gonzalez says. “Yes it will be replaced by automatic transitions.”

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