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Subaru executive casts doubt on manual transmission future

Joel Stocksdale

Some disconcerting news for Subaru fans has come out from the Geneva Motor Show. Subaru's U.K. managing director told Auto Express that he doesn't see the manual transmission as having a future at the automaker. He explained that the company is really focusing on safety, and in turn Subaru's Eyesight technology. As a refresher, that system uses stereo cameras to enable features such as automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. The feature isn't currently available on manual-equipped Subarus, and the executive said he wasn't sure if the system was compatible. And with Subaru's push for safety and Eyesight, he said that continuing to offer manual cars without the system could undermine that push.

This sounds dire at first, but we shouldn't panic yet. First, this is just an executive for Subaru's U.K. branch, not for the global company or the U.S., and car companies don't have the same offerings everywhere. For example, the Crosstrek is only offered with a CVT in Europe, but here in America – land of the free, home of the clutch – Subaru offers a six-speed manual. So, while it is possible that certain regions will have reduced or no manual options, that doesn't mean it would be across the board.

And even if Subaru decided it would phase out manual transmissions on most of its mainline cars, as it did with the Legacy, we can't imagine the company abandoning the transmission for its performance cars. WRX and STI fans would riot in the streets, possibly on their way to buy a next-generation Focus RS or Golf R, and the BRZ, a car built around the idea of driver engagement, wouldn't survive in a market with the Miata. Subaru may want to improve safety, but they're still a for-profit company, and sales of its performance cars would surely tank without a manual option.

One more reason not to fret is that, while Subaru doesn't currently have a manual-compatible suite of semi-autonomous safety features, that doesn't mean it's impossible. As it so happens, Mazda offers low-speed automatic emergency braking as a standard feature on all its models in every trim. Mazda also has higher-speed emergency braking, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control as options, and they are compatible with manual transmission cars. You can order up a top trim Mazda3 Grand Touring with a manual transmission right now.

Keeping all this in mind, we think it's highly unlikely that Subaru will abandon the manual transmission. Even if it does eventually, we think that's way off in the future, perhaps even after gasoline-powered cars exit the mainstream. But hey, if we're wrong, there are a couple interesting alternatives mentioned above.

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Subaru executive casts doubt on manual transmission future originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 08 Mar 2018 15:25:00 EST.