Volkswagen, Europe’s largest automotive group with a significant presence in China, has unofficially revealed that the company has taken its first step in ditching the manual transmission.
According to an article by Motortrend, German portal Auto Motor Und Sport reports that all new Volkswagen models introduced after 2023 will not include a manual transmission variant. The first model to be automatic-only will be the 2023 Volkswagen Tiguan followed by every new generation model of the Passat, Golf, Touran, and so on.
The timeline coincides with the group’s transition to fully electric vehicles, whereby from 2030, 70% of new Volkswagen vehicles in Europe is combustion engine-less. The company has set between 2033 and 2035 to completely phase out the traditional engine in Europe with an extension to the timeline for the US and China markets. As recent as March 2020, Volkswagen said to try and keep the three-pedal layout for as long as it can.
It is only a matter of time before the robust manual transmission is completely removed from mainstream passenger cars. Even commercial vehicles, such as the electric Mercedes-Benz’ eActros, are now offered with electric power in the build-up to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in Europe.
In Malaysia, apart from the Porsche Cayman GT4, Toyota GR Yaris, Honda Civic Type R, Subaru BRZ, and Mazda MX-5, only the most entry-level vehicles come with a manual transmission option including the Proton Saga 1.3 Standard and Perodua’s Axia 1.0, Bezza 1.0 and Alza 1.5S.
UMW Toyota used to offer the manual options for the Vios J up to the 2018 update but from the heavily-facelifted model onwards, the five-speed manual variants are only reserved for the Toyota Vios Challenge racing series.
Meanwhile, clever programming allows a gearless continuously variable transmission (CVT) to have up to ten steps of shifts or “gears”, as heavily marketed in the Toyota Vios GR Sport. Apart from the close-ratio of the shift steps, the transmission also is programmed to induce some “shift shock” like in a traditional automatic transmission for an intangible sporty character.
The situation in Indonesia is however very different, as almost every new vehicle launched there for the mass market still has a manual transmission option, such as the Toyota Raize and Honda City hatchback. Demand for manual transmissions is still strong as they are priced lower and drivers there are still fond of its merits.
While electric vehicles have no gears to shift, their steering wheel-mounted shift paddles are still retained. In the Honda City RS eHEV, these paddles are used to increase or reduce the amount of regenerative braking from the electric motor, which does most of the traction work for the car.