Magna: Demand for Manual Transmissions to Increase Worldwide

Although many consumers in the U.S. are baffled by cars with three pedals, consumers in emerging markets prefer low-cost manual transmissions to automatics. Because of this, supplier Magna Powertrain is predicting an increase in global demand for manual gearboxes.

“What we still see in emerging markets is a growth in manual transmissions going up to six speeds,” Erwin Haas, senior vice president and head of engineering at Magna Powertrain, told Ward’s Auto. “In emerging markets, customers can afford maybe only a manual transmission or a [semi-automatic].”

China recently became the world’s largest auto market, and sales of low-cost vehicles — typically equipped with stick shifts — are still growing at a rapid pace. Other emerging markets, like India and Russia, also favor low-cost manual transmissions. According to Haas, in time, these will be the only markets ordering manual transmissions in sizable quantities.

Elsewhere, the gearbox type will become virtually extinct. Apart from a few performance vehicles, few cars sold in North America come equipped with manual transmissions. According to Ward’s Auto, only 6.2 percent of all cars sold in the U.S. in 2009 were equipped with five-speed manuals, while 2.4 percent were fitted with six-speed manuals. Through the end of March, Hyundai sold roughly 31,000 examples of its 2011 Sonata — but only 23 were equipped with manual transmissions.

Europe is still clutch-friendly, but dual-clutch transmissions are quickly starting to render the manual transmission obsolete. Haas says Europeans accept dual-clutch transmissions more readily than conventional torque-converter automatics, as they provide the fast shifting of a manual transmission, coupled with a 5- to 8- percent benefit in fuel economy.

The manual’s reign in emerging markets may even be limited. Haas says that continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) may become popular in such areas, provided their manufacturing costs drop and consumers accept their driving characteristics.

Source: Ward’s Auto