THE JOURNEY FROM MANUAL TO AUTOMATIC

ACA Research, our partners in the AAAA Aftermarket Dashboard, take a look at the changes occurring in driving habits

Driving patterns are changing, with data out of Victoria suggesting younger Australians aren’t turning up at the motor registry on their birthday, but are instead waiting to get their drivers licences a bit further down the track.
We’re also seeing a significant shift in the type of vehicle they’re choosing. Over the past five years, we’ve seen Aussie car buyers shift away from manual transmissions, choosing the ‘easy’ option over a ‘more traditional’ hands-on driving experience.
Despite this decline, we will always continue to see people who want the driving experience that can only be delivered by manual cars, however this seems to be more focused on niche subsets, such as sports cars and utes.

Table One: Percentage split of automatic and manual vehicles over time in Australia.

Looking at our manual transmissions, we can also see a technological shift within this category. Over the past decade, we’ve gone from five speed gearboxes being the dominant technology to six speed taking over in 2015 and 2016, and back to a more even mix through the past two years.
As could be expected, this is very much driven by specific vehicles and models, with six speed transmissions historically tending to be used in more powerful, higher-end cars.
More recently however, we’ve seen six-speeds more common in passenger vehicles such as the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30, and Mazda 3, where it allows the engine to run at lower RPMs, aiming to deliver increased fuel-efficiency.

Table Two: percentage split of manual five speed and manual six speed transmission vehicles over time in Australia.

The past decade has also seen a significant change when it comes to automatic transmissions.
We can again see a clear trend here, with technological improvements allowing manufacturers to increase the number of gears.
While many newer vehicles are now operating with a six-speed automatic transmission as standard, CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) appears as the current pinnacle of this movement, typically drawing maximum power from smaller engines, while generating fewer emissions.
This customer-friendly offering is evident across the SUV landscape, with examples such as the Nissan X-Trail, Mitsubishi ASX and Mitsubishi Outlander using CVT technology. Given sales of vehicles with CVT transmissions accounted for one in five of the vehicles registered in 2018, consumers are clearly buying into this updated driving experience.
What does this mean for a workshop? As we’ve talked about previously, you need to be across the mix of vehicles you’re seeing in your area, as well as understanding how this is shifting over time.

Table Three: percentage split of automatic vehicle transmissions over time in Australia.

While it could be argued that automatic transmissions are inherently more complicated than manual, which means more can go wrong (and often does), you are taking out the human element, which should also reduce wear and tear on components.
Either way, with more and more manufacturers rolling out automatic models and embracing technologies such as CVT, you will be seeing these vehicles rolling into your workshop in years to come.

This column was prepared for AAA Magazine by ACA Research, our partners in the AAAA Aftermarket Dashboard which is delivered to your inbox each quarter.

For more information, visit www.acaresearch.com.au or contact Ben Selwyn on bselwyn@acaresearch.com.au