For most of British motoring history up until today, most of the population has held manual licences, and manual transmission is generally the default for the vehicles that people learn to drive in. But while the vast majority of us are probably familiar with the ins and outs of driving manuals, and well practised at finding biting points, recent trends show that the day may soon be coming when all that could become irrelevant. While there will likely always be certain people who prefer to stick to manuals, emerging technology and changing attitudes show that automatics may well become the norm in the not too distant future. (Either way, you’re sure to find plenty of options on both of them in our online car auctions!) So, our question this week is: why are automatic vehicles becoming so popular?
What are the statistics saying?
There are certainly far more automatics on the road than there used to be. Even as recently as 2012, there were only 506,720 cars on British roads which were registered with standard automatic gearboxes. However, by 2017, in the span of just five years, this number had doubled to 1,016,516. In October of that year, experts estimated that a third of new cars were automatics, accounting for more than 35% of new car sales. By the following year, in 2018, experts estimated that automatic gearbox sales had increased more than 70% since 2007. Those are some pretty significant numbers, and they only seem to be growing over time!
The key reasons behind the rise of automatics
There are a number of likely causes, and none of the biggest ones appear to be contradictory so far, so they probably all play a part to varying degrees. One of the simplest ones relates to the improvements in gearbox sophistication and overall change quality. If you were driving at any point in the 1970s, you may already remember the 3-speed gearbox (how fondly, though, we couldn’t say). Although 3-speed gearboxes were in widespread use back, they’ve evolved into gearboxes of 8, 9 or even 10 speeds today.
On a related note, many of the world’s global manufacturers have been phasing out manuals for years. This includes prestigious leaders like Ferrari and Porsche, as well as manufacturers like Ford and Volkswagen. In recent environmental pushes, the government is also actively forging ahead with plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, in an effort to clean up the air in cities. So far, it’s working towards a target of eliminating petrol and diesel cars by 2040, but there are calls to bring this deadline forward to 2032. All told, experts think that if the government is able to stick to this deadline, manual cars could disappear from the roads within 10 years.
So what would replace them? Well, we’re seeing those already. Hybrid and fully electric cars both make extensive use of automatic gearboxes rather than manual ones. And of course, the steady progress of driverless technology means that human interaction with the cars will be kept to a minimum anyway.
However, it’ll be quite a while before those start to appear in our online car auctions here at RAW2K! You can still find all sorts of vehicles from leading manufacturers such as Vauxhall, Renault and Mercedes, with both manual and automatic gearboxes. These cars can range in condition from lightly damaged to severely structurally damaged, but if the gearboxes have been lucky enough to escape punishment, automatics can constitute expensive repairs, so if you find one that matches your car you could be on to a winner. They can also both be equally good cars for new drivers to learn in, so whatever you’re looking for it’s worth taking a look through our listings to see what you can find!