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The end of the manual transmission! Will Volkswagen and Mercedes abandon them soon?

November 19, 2021

There are some drivers who don’t like automatic transmissions and they read how much for scrap car. “Because it is too expensive, because they degrade performance and increase fuel consumption, because they take away the pleasure of driving and control of the car because they break down.” Is it so?

In fact, almost all of these hackneyed arguments have long since lost their relevance. Modern automatic transmissions react and change gears faster than a better driver could, in practice they actually improve performance and do not increase fuel consumption. And if someone wants to “play” with the gears on their own, then many “machines” allow you to switch to manual mode. Thus, basically only a matter of costs remains – and they largely depend on the scale and optimization of production. The more cars with automatic transmission, the cheaper they become! In addition, manufacturers can save billions by eliminating the design, implementation and manufacture of manual transmissions on new models.

It is worth knowing that since the introduction of the new approval, emission and fuel consumption (WLTP) regulations, each engine and transmission combination requires separate tests, which are also costly. For the rest, the demand for manual transmissions is still constantly falling for several reasons.

First of all, manufacturers are moving away from producing cheap A-segment cars because revenues from cheap cars are low and current safety and emissions requirements effectively discourage the production of cheap cars for the European market.

Second, customers are becoming lazy and expecting more comfort. The more expensive the model, the lower the percentage of cars with a manual transmission. Above the middle class, “automatic machines” have long been the norm, not the exception. Drivers are already so busy with electronic gadgets or playing games with smartphones that they don’t have enough hands to control the gearbox.

Thirdly, technical issues. In an era of widespread hybridization and progressive electrification of drives, manual transmissions are losing their raison d’être. Even in simple hybrids, they do not allow for maximum performance, and they simply are not suitable for plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles. In addition, computer-controlled “automatic machines” contribute to the achievement of the required low emission level due to the optimal choice of the gear ratio depending on the engine load and its characteristics.

So we may love manual transmissions, but … the end is near. Yes, they will probably survive in a few exotic models and cheap cars made for lower demand markets. In Europe, they will soon be removed from sales!

The first attempts to recall manual transmissions were already visible in 2019, when many manufacturers, due to new homologation requirements, were forced to limit the offer of models and versions, or at least temporarily suspend the sale of some of them in order to fulfill their official release. emissions and fuel consumption tests under the new regulations. Many manual transmission versions fell victim to these cuts as demand for them was lower.

Last year, it was reported that Mercedes would soon abandon the manual transmission – arguing this on technical and economic issues. One way or another, the percentage of cars sold from this manufacturer is less and less every year, the vast majority of new cars were still ordered with automatic transmissions.

Now the German automotive media have received information that Volkswagen also had to decide on the same step. According to reports from the German publication Auto Motor & Sport, for example, the next generation Volkswagen Tiguan (announced to launch in 2023) will no longer offer any engines with a manual transmission, and manual transmissions will also be dropped from the offer in the same year. Passat models, and then in smaller models of the concern’s cars. This could mean that cars will get more expensive because the current base versions of many models will drop out of supply.

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