The motor industry has all but given up on three-door cars, and it looks like manual gearboxes are starting to go the same way, especially in the United States. With the arrival of the new 2019 Audi A4 saloon and A5 coupe models in the US, Audi's entire US lineup will be automatic, with not a single stick-shift option left. It's mainly high-end vehicles that are going automatic-only for now, but it's not hard to imagine a time in the not-too-distant future when manual gearboxes will be almost unheard of.
Land Rover, for example, dropped the manual versions of the Discovery and Range Rover some years ago, and there has never been a manual version of the Range Rover Sport. Audi has been offering a six-speed manual transmission as a no-cost option for the current 2018 versions of the A4 and A5 in the US, but the replacement 2019 models will be exclusively automatic. Car and Driver recently reported that only 5 percent of A4 customers in the US chose a manual over an automatic transmission, so the move to drop manual gearboxes appears to be based on economics.
Although there's no suggestion at the moment that Audi will do the same in markets like Europe, where the American market goes today, the rest of the world follows. There are still some luxury brands offering manual gearboxes in the US, such as BMW, Genesis, Cadillac and Porsche, though Porsche limits the availability of manual gearboxes to its sports cars only.
Until some years ago, choosing an automatic meant forgoing at least a gear or two compared to the manual option, and manuals were also generally better for fuel economy. But with modern automatics now regularly featuring eight, nine and even ten speeds, and usually being more fuel-efficient than their manual counterparts, it's increasingly hard to make a case for manual.
Of course, there will always be some demand for manual boxes from driving enthusiasts, especially in all-out sports cars. But with the likes of even Ferrari, Bugatti and Lamborghini increasingly adopting automatics in their most powerful models, the manual could soon be an endangered species.