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Subaru might drop manual transmissions in the name of safety

2018 Subaru Crosstrek
2018 Subaru Crosstrek with a manual transmission (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

Subaru says that its EyeSight automatic emergency braking suite of safety gear might spell the end of manual transmissions for its car lineup.

Speaking with Auto Express at the Geneva auto show last week, Subaru U.K. Managing Director Chris Graham said, "My gut tells me it will be EyeSight with Lineartronic (Subaru's term for its continunously variable transmissions) ongoing and long term. They want to steal the mantle of the safest car in the world. I think if they do that, then they say ‘here’s a manual without EyeSight’ they’ll just ruin that."’

In the U.S., Subaru has pared its stick-shifted fleet back to its smaller cars—the Forester, Crosstrek, and Impreza, as well as its BRZ sports coupe and WRX performance sedan. Subaru's EyeSight system can apply the brakes automatically if it detects an impending collision. The system isn't designed to work with manual transmissions since those require the driver to press the clutch pedal to prevent the vehicle to prevent the vehicle from stalling.


Automatic emergency braking isn't likely to be mandated federally in the U.S., but automakers have agreed to fit the technology to the vast majority of new cars over the next few years.

“All these things are reinforcing the safety message," Graham said. "The safety message is the thing Subaru will want to take forward.”

Some automakers, like Mazda, have automatic emergency braking systems that are compatible with manual transmissions. But Graham's comments make it sound like Subaru isn't ready to be one of them, even if it means keeping the stick shift around for a bit longer.

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