How Shifting Demand Killed the Manual Transmission

Apr 04, 2019 09:32 PM EDT | Staff Reporter


Stick, manual, 5-speed, four on the floor, MT, three on the tree.....standard. One thing is for sure, no matter what vernacular you use, the standard transmission is anything but.

You might've heard the news last year that Audi dropped the manual transmission for its A4 and A5 in 2019. That means, this is the first year Audi hasn't offered any stick shift options and that as of this year Audi's U.S. lineup is entirely automatic. Well, you might've seen this coming. It's 2019, a time when luxury is demanded even for the common man and convenience is sought at every corner. According to Car and Driver, only 5 percent of A4 customers chose manual transmission over the automatic version. To the dismay of car enthusiasts all over North America, manual transmission parts are generally disappearing. That shift in demand means the clutch parts, shift linkage, and that laborious third pedal have been exchanged in favor of torque converters and hydraulic solenoids.

If you are reading this and worrying that the manual transmission will completely flicker out, there is hope. In Europe and Japan, light vehicles equipped with MT still represent around 80% of new cars sales. That means sticks and clutches are continuing to be developed for new cars, and dealers are still willing to import a manual car for the enthusiast-oriented vehicle market. Some of you that still drive a manual might be wondering how long replacement Audi parts will continue to be available for your manual transmission.

Although there is no set rule, generally here at eEuroparts we see Genuine Audi parts become no longer available (NLA) at the 10-15-year-old mark. Yet regardless how long Audi will produce the OEM parts, for most common makes and models including Audi, 3rd party companies will fill in the gaps with aftermarket parts. Audi tends to have very good aftermarket and performance parts support, often collaborating with those 3rd parties to produce the correct parts designs and specs. So that means Audi's manual transmission parts will continue to be available as Genuine and OEM for quite some time, and even longer in the aftermarket and performance segments. Whether you're looking for OEM, aftermarket or performance, is ensuring that the Audi replacement parts you need will likely be available for as long as you own your car.

One reason for the shift in demand trend may be a general increase in traffic. If you've ever sat in a jam, you'll know the agony of the constant clutch pedal dance. The added downside is that riding your clutch like that is bad for all of your car's drivetrain parts, from your friction disk to your hydraulic slave cylinder. Except for a small dip in US vehicle registrations from 2009-2012, the number of cars registered in the US grows by about 3 million per year. In combination with this, people are moving further and further away from their workplaces and enduring longer commutes. Let's face it, long commutes and increasing traffic have helped crown the automatic transmission king. So much so that the manual transmission can be considered an anti-theft device.

Many automotive enthusiasts tend to prefer choosing their own gears, but aren't keen on the third pedal. That attitude has ushered in a new generation of automatic transmission parts that are making their way to US dealerships; The Dual-Clutch Automatic. Ditching the lazy and heavy torque converter in favor of a pair of real clutches, the dual-clutch transmission combines the best of both worlds. At its core, the dual-clutch transmission is an automatic, and the shift lever has all the familiar AT options.

When you're feeling zesty, you just select the manual mode, enabling gear selection via steering wheel mounted paddles. Downshifts and upshifts are responsive and quick, unlike manual modes on older-style automatic transmissions. This is because the dual clutch transmission can have the next gear pre-selected and ready to engage, waiting for the first clutch to hand over power to the second. As an added bonus, these new dual-clutch cars are often faster than the manual transmission versions.

Now in 2019, nearly every luxury car maker has either ZF, Borg Warner or Getrag developed Dual-Clutch transmission parts. That includes the VW/Audi DSG (BorgWarner and LUK), BMW/MINI/Volvo DCT (Getrag), 7-speed Porsche PDK (ZF) and Mercedes AMG "Speedshift" (Getrag). The only significant differences between the DSG, DCT, PDK, Speedshift etc is that they are made by different manufacturers. There are indeed small differences such as dry vs wet clutch, but that gets more technical than even most enthusiasts care to know. So, are manual transmission parts dead? Of course not, but the landscape is quickly shifting to favor the new dual-clutch automatic. The end result is more cars with lightning quick manual shifting ability, and that's a plus for this enthusiast.

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