More than 1 in 3 new car buyers now choose automatic

The market for cars with an automatic gearbox has boomed over the past two decades with uptake accelerating rapidly so far this year

Automatic gearbox

Cars with an automatic gearbox are growing in popularity as more and more new car buyers choose an auto.

Just 14 percent of new cars sold in 2000 were an auto. This had risen only slightly, to 18 percent, by the end of the decade.

However, between 2010 and 2020, automatic cars have been booming. At the end of 2019, they accounted for 36 percent of new car sales – doubling their popularity in just 10 years.

So far in 2020, the shift to autos has risen further, to almost 40 percent of new car sales.

Automotive information company Glass’s is now predicting that within the next few years, more than half of all new vehicles registered in the UK will be automatics.

Retro Mercedes-Benz 280 SL Automatic

“The automatic has become an automatic choice,” said Glass’s editor Jonathan Brown.

“In terms of registrations, this is a rise from just 335k in 2009 to 827k in 2019.”

Manual gearbox penetration at car auctions has also been decreasing since the end of 2018, he added.

“Wholesale volume of automatic gearboxes in 2010 stood at 119k cars, increasing to 368k in 2019.”

In other words, the number of secondhand automatic cars being sold through the trade to stock used car forecourts has more than tripled.

Mr Brown cites an ageing population and the “transformed” performance and fuel efficiency of automatic gearboxes for the shift.

However, the fact all electric cars, hybrids and plug-in hybrids are equipped with an automatic gearbox is also helping the shift.

So far in 2020, sales of such alternative fuel vehicles have boomed – with pure electric cars alone taking a 6.4 percent share in August 2020.


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Richard Aucock
I'm director at Motoring Research. I run a bit, cycle a bit, have a huge love for the automotive industry.


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