VW’s joint venture in China, SAIC Volkswagen, has made the decision to stop producing manual transmissions for its vehicles from March 2023, according to internal documents.
A letter sent to employees at SAIC Volkswagen’s transmission plant in Shanghai seen by Autohome revealed the news. It warned workers that production of the transmission would stop at the end of March, after which the company will begin the process of closing down related operations and liquidating assets.
According to the letter, the decision was reached because of the rapidly transforming vehicle market in China. With the rise of new-energy powertrains like plug-in hybrids that almost exclusively use automatic transmissions and electric vehicles that mostly don’t need transmissions at all, the need for manuals is evaporating.
Read: Mercedes To Kill Manuals In Europe From 2023
SAIC Volkswagen currently only offers the transmission on a limited number of vehicles, among them the Santana, Lavida, and Polo. It is unclear if this decision will affect the other two brands operated by the joint venture, Audi and Skoda. The former, though, currently only offers the A7L, the Q5 e-tron, and the Q6 in China, so not building any manual transmissions is unlikely to affect it.
China is hardly alone in its flagging interest in manual transmissions. The option has been rapidly disappearing from vehicles around the world as larger SUVs and crossovers take over from sedans and hatchbacks. Automatic transmissions have improved and technology has progressed, prompting the manual to lose significant market share.
Now, with the advent of mass-market electric vehicles and numerous jurisdictions planning for the end of internal combustion engines, the manual transmission’s fate seems set, in the long term. In the short term, though, a number of enthusiast-focused vehicles, like the VW Golf GTI, seem to have carved a niche for themselves around the world.