One of Australia’s best-selling cars – and a model many learned to drive in – is about to quietly delete the option of a manual transmission.
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EXCLUSIVE

The manual transmission option is about to be discreetly dropped from Australia's favourite passenger car – a model in which many motorists learned to drive.

Hammering another nail in the coffin for the stick shift, the Toyota Corolla – Australia's best-selling passenger car for the past eight years and an icon among first-time drivers – will lose the option of a manual transmission from next month.

A confidential bulletin sent to Toyota dealers has outlined subtle changes to the Toyota Corolla range, including the deletion of the manual transmission.

Figures obtained by CarAdvice show demand for manual transmission in the Toyota Corolla has plummeted over the past five years.

In 2015, confidential “cube data” industry figures show 7.5 per cent of sales of the Toyota Corolla hatch were for the manual transmission, before demand dropped to 6 per cent of the sales mix in 2016 and 5 per cent in 2017.

However, the decline in the popularity of manual transmission has been most stark since 2018, dropping from 3 per cent of Toyota Corolla hatch demand that year to just 1.5 per cent for the past two years.

The manual mix for the Toyota Corolla sedan sales is even smaller, dropping from 3.5 per cent in 2016 to 0.5 per cent over the previous 12 months.

Although there is a possibility a manual transmission could return to the Toyota Corolla in an upcoming GR performance model, the Toyota dealer bulletin says, for now, the manual gearbox option will be discontinued from July 2021 production onwards.

The manual transmission has been dying a slow death as more motorists learn to drive an automatic car only, and young drivers have delayed getting their licence as they increasingly embrace ride-sharing and food delivery services.

Manual transmissions remain available on selected city hatchbacks, work utes, and performance cars, although their popularity is waning too.

While the manual transmission is unlikely to become extinct – and will likely be used as a price point for city hatchbacks and work utes – demand will continue to diminish as more vehicles switch to hybrid or electric power globally.

There is a manual transmission electric car in China, however that is an anomaly.

Industry experts say the continued rollout of advanced safety aids such as autonomous emergency braking will also accelerate the decline of manual transmissions.

Although many AEB systems can be calibrated to operate in a car with a stick shift, automatic transmissions remove a layer of complication for the technology.