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Manual Transmission Could Be Forced Into Retirement As Safety Tech Advances

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While take rates for the seven-speed manual transmission in the new 2021 Ford Bronco remain high, the row-your-own enthusiast’s gearbox of choice has long faced a dire future. Fewer and fewer people are opting to purchase vehicles with manuals, which has led to less and less of them being available to purchase. Now, a new threat has emerged that could force the beloved manual transmission into retirement for good – safety technology, according to Automotive News.

It isn’t that driver-assist features like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control pose a direct threat to the manual gearbox, however. The dilemma lies in development costs in regards to adapting these technologies to cars equipped with manual transmissions, which currently make up a mere 1.2 percent of total vehicle sales in North America. Ultimately, it makes little sense for automakers to spend the money necessary to make these systems, many of which are becoming mandatory features, work with manuals.

Some features – including automatic emergency braking – will be available on most models by 2022 following a voluntary 2019 agreement between 20 automakers and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, some automakers haven’t bothered to adapt their advanced safety systems to manual-equipped vehicles (Subaru, for example) though others have (including Mazda and Toyota).

As for Ford Motor Company, it’s worth pointing out that both the Ford Bronco and Ford Mustang come standard with automatic emergency braking via the automaker’s CoPilot 360 suite of driver-assist features. Thus, it seems that at least for now, Ford is willing to invest in adapting the latest safety tech to manual transmissions, which is great news for those that prefer to do their own shifting while behind the wheel.

We’ll have more on the future of the manual transmission soon, so be sure and subscribe to Ford Authority for ongoing Ford news coverage.

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Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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Comments

  1. crabbymilton p

    The volume of vehicles being sold with manual has declined over the many years. Unless you are an absolute sports car stalwart, not too many want it anymore hence the decline.

    Reply
    1. royl

      What?? did you read the part about the manual take rate?????? People with actual money, are purchasing-sight unseen, new broncos with a manual. Your contention, “not too many want it anymore” should read, “those actually purchasing vehicles where a manual is offered, are doing so with a High Take Rate”. Those that can’t parallel park, live with mom, can’t hold a job, but are great at computer games, do not want a manual-they can’t drive one.

      Reply
      1. Stalkbroker94

        It’s literally for the same of tradition at this point. They just want bragging rights and nostalgia. That’s it.

        Reply
        1. GaryB

          Don’t speak for people you don’t understand. I love manual transmissions. Even a crappy slow car becomes somewhat entertaining with a manual transmission. Automatics are boring to me. It’s like playing a game you know very well, on the easiest difficulty. Instead of being fun, it becomes mundane and disengaging

          Reply
          1. Stalkbroker94

            Sounds like special snowflake bragging rights to me.
            For pete’s sake, you don’t think someone can drive a manual and still understand that they’re outdated?

            Reply
  2. crabbymilton

    Yes I did read it. I did say dedicated sports car people and yes, this new BRONCO might be one of the holdouts .Not sure if the JEEP WRANGLER offers it. Why do you think pickup trucks no longer offer stick? Full size van’s have not offered if for 35-40 years. The reason, they did at one time but the volume of people demanding it declined to the point where it was no longer practical to offer it. As for me, I would never get a vehicle with stick shift even though the one’s I would be inclined to buy don’t or never have offered it.

    Reply
  3. Mark

    In other words, you suck as a driver so we’re taking away your shifter.

    Reply
    1. Crabbymilton

      Just because I don’t want to wiggle a lever and stomp on the clutch pedal that makes me a bad driver? Takes all kinds. Oh 1950 just emailed and they want their ideas back.

      Reply
      1. Lurch

        Don’t believe everything you see on the internet.–A. Lincoln

        Reply
  4. Mark B

    Some of us are just trend busters! All four of my vehicles are cars, and three of the four are manuals. I’ll just take really good care of them, and ENJOY DRIVING them as long as I can. See the emphasis on ENJOY.

    I certainly respect the direction the mindless masses are taking…I’ll resist as long as I am able. As far as safety… let’s not confuse lowering the bar with ever decreasing driver acumen as a NEED for safety…these nanny’s devices just continue to encourage it.

    Reply
    1. Stalkbroker94

      What do you mean? You can’t enjoy a vehicle unless it’s a manual?
      You have to be mindless to drive an automatic?
      You can’t make good, quick decisions while driving an automatic?
      You’re being swaddled if you don’t drive a manual?

      You’re taking yourself FAR too seriously, friend.

      Reply
  5. Crabbymilton

    Ok great you can enjoy them. I enjoy my car for many reasons. I wouldn’t enjoy it if I had to shift gears myself. Perhaps that’s just me.

    Reply
    1. Steve Codomo

      Still the best anti theft system is a manual transmission. No one under 30 has seen , much less driven a stick . 45 years since my 70 Mach 1 4 speed with factory installed Hurst shifter was my first and favorite car.

      Reply
      1. Julian Bottin

        I am 26 and drive stick….

        Reply
      2. Stalkbroker94

        What are you talking about? I’ve driven plenty of manuals since I was 20 and I’m 26 now. The problem is that you think driving a manual makes you special. It’s just the way a vehicle shifts, my friend. Try not to take yourself too seriously.

        Reply
      3. Lurch

        My 21-year-old niece drives a manual, but that’s because my sister insisted on buying her one.

        Reply
  6. Josh

    I’m so sick of these articles talking like you will not be able to have any manual control over your transmission whatsoever. Look, it’s the clutch pedal and the feel of the shift lever moving into gear that is going away. Most vehicles will still have a shifter with manual override so you can play around. Paddle shifters are a thing too. People keep saying they want manuals to stay around, but why? I can get an automatic and play with it as a manual, then put it back in automatic when I’m in traffic or tired. Do you really need to flex your left leg that bad? The shifter is the main part of the experience people like anyway, not so much the clutch pedal. That is why the manual ONLY transmission is going away though.

    Reply
    1. Disciple of regular.

      No clutch, No manual.
      No clutch, NO MANUAL.
      NO CLUTCH, NO MANUAL!!!!!!!!

      Reply
  7. Jeff

    I was a Ford dealer trained tech from ’90-2018, I’ve seen literally thousands of auto trans failures resulting in tow bills. One tiny thing not in spec and you’re not going anywhere. All my vehicles are manual, and they fail too, but I’ve never needed to be towed. 4th gear always survives and a manual transfer case and manual locking hubs allowed me to 4lo/4hi my way 2 hrs home. Technology fascinates me, but often I see it as a crutch. I can lock my own doors, roll my own windows, adjust my a/c as needed, step on my own brake pedal. I prefer to be an interactive part of the drive. You do you, I’d rather row my own.

    Reply
    1. Stalkbroker94

      That’s interesting. My friend of 15 years has been a Senior Master technician since 2010 and an exemplary automotive technician long before then and he says manuals go bad far more often than automatics. In fact, most of our technicians (many of them need to retire) agree with him. To this day, we hardly ever get automatic transmissions in as the cause of failure, save for the Focus, which had a bad design. Sure do get a lot of manuals in, though.

      Reply
  8. Mike says..

    I get it that manuals are ‘old school’ and in declining popularity….. that said, I hope that a limited number of models offer the choice going forward. If Bronco is any indicator, there is a appetite for manual transmissions. Domestics abandoned cars, now you see Genesis and others staking their claim on ‘unpopular cars’. The same marketing dynamic could well happen with manual transmission vehicles….. market share is market share…. give it away and someone, somewhere will take it up.

    Reply
  9. Christopher Hackbarth

    I had a 2017 GT350 manual, traded it in for a 2020 GT500 automatic, traded that in for a 2021 Mach1 manual, enough said. Just a creature of habit.

    Reply
  10. Edmund J Safka

    Only people driving automatics accelerate towards red lights.

    Reply
  11. Jay

    Real manuals – which do not include automatics with paddle-shifters – are absolutely more fun to drive, and in many respects safer than any slushbox or CVT. I suspect some of the anti-stick trolls on this board are suffering from an acute case of “manual envy.”

    I have yet to meet anyone who has mastered the art of driving (i.e. one who knows how to properly operate a manual transmission) who doesn’t respect & appreciate the experience.

    The opinions of those who trash manuals = uniformed, peevish, and likely envious in the classic Freudian sense.

    Reply
    1. Stalkbroker94

      Good lord, you take yourself too seriously. Better call the nurse and have her close your Internet Explorer page and get your meds. Bed time

      Reply
  12. crabbymilton

    I have driven a few vehicles with stick just to get the hang of it. It wasn’t the worst experience in the world but I prefer automatic hands down. I don’t know how stick can be safer but that’s just me. My GRAND MARQUIS never had stick shift available. “In my day we didn’t have these fancy dancy electric starting motor gizmos. We had to turn a big crank by hand when it was -20. You needed your arm in a cast afterward but we were proud.” Next thing they’ll be pushing to bring back DC generators and… 🙂

    Reply
    1. Stalkbroker94

      If we REALLY wanted to get rid of our “fancy shmancy gizmos” we would revert back to completely impractical electric vehicles, horses and buggies, and steam cars. XD

      Reply
  13. Julian Bottin

    I finally got my first manual transmission car this year. I love it so much, I will never be going back…even if that means I will never be able to own a car newer than a 2030 model. I am 26 years old for reference. I have had a Mustang with the “manual mode” it eas fun untilnI got a real manual. Now I have a 2002 Toyota MR2 and that 2014 Mustang I gave to my mother. I plan on getting a 65 or 66 Mustang in the near future as the MR2 legroom is a little too small for me plus I prefer classic cars. I had a 72 Pontiac Grand Prox and that was a load of fun.

    Reply
    1. Julian Bottin

      It wont load when I try to fix the typos….but you get what I mean. My phone screen is cracked so it sometimes it types the wrong letter….I just sent that last reply before checking over it.

      Reply
  14. Jeffrey D. Sproul

    I like manuals as well but currently don’t have one. I prefer the driving experience of a manual but they are much harder to find. Eventually most vehicles will be EVs and EVs don’t have manuals.

    Reply
    1. Lurch

      True. In fact, many don’t have any kind of transmission.

      Reply

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