The Evolution of Subaru: When and Why Did They Stop Making Standard Transmissions?

Subaru is a well-known brand in the automotive industry, with a reputation for producing reliable cars with a focus on performance and handling. Since its inception, the company has produced cars with standard transmissions, which are preferred by many car enthusiasts for their superior control and driving experience. However, in recent years, Subaru has shifted away from standard transmissions, leading many to wonder why and when this change occurred.

A Brief History of Subaru’s Use of Standard Transmissions

It’s interesting to note that the first cars produced by Subaru, such as the 360 model in the 1960s, were all equipped with standard transmissions. In fact, Subaru was one of the few car manufacturers that continued to offer manual transmissions on all its models well into the 2000s.

For many years, Subaru’s standard transmissions were lauded for their precise shifting and durable construction, making them a favorite among car enthusiasts and rally racing teams. The company also continued to develop and improve its transmissions, with features such as all-wheel drive and hill descent control being added to enhance performance and safety.

Why Subaru Stopped Making Standard Transmissions

Despite the popularity and success of its standard transmissions, Subaru began to shift away from this technology in the early 2010s. There were a few factors that led to this decision, including:

  • Consumer Preferences: With the rise of automatic transmissions that offered improved fuel efficiency and convenience, more and more consumers were opting for automatics over manuals. As a result, car manufacturers began to shift their production away from standard transmissions to meet this demand.

  • Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Regulations: As environmental regulations became stricter, car manufacturers had to focus on improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. This meant that many manufacturers had to shift to automatic transmissions, which offer better fuel efficiency due to their ability to shift gears more quickly and smoothly than manual transmissions.

  • Cost and Complexity: Producing and maintaining standard transmissions is a complex and labor-intensive process. In contrast, automatic transmissions are simpler and less expensive to produce, making them a more cost-effective option for car manufacturers.

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The Impact of Subaru’s Shift Away from Standard Transmissions

The move away from standard transmissions has had a significant impact on Subaru as a brand, as well as on car enthusiasts who prefer manual transmissions. For example:

  • Brand Identity: Subaru was known for its all-wheel drive systems and standard transmissions, which were a major selling point for car enthusiasts. However, the shift away from this technology has caused some to question whether Subaru is still committed to providing a superior driving experience.

  • Driving Experience: Many car enthusiasts prefer manual transmissions because they offer greater control over the car and a more engaging driving experience. As Subaru has moved away from standard transmissions, some fans have expressed disappointment that they can no longer get the driving experience they crave.

Manual vs Automatic Transmissions

While automatic transmissions have become more popular in recent years, many car enthusiasts still prefer manual transmissions for the benefits they offer. Some advantages of manual transmissions include:

  • Greater Control: With a manual transmission, drivers have more control over the car, since they can shift gears whenever they want and at whatever speed they choose.

  • Better Performance: Manual transmissions can often provide better acceleration and handling, which is why they are preferred by many professional drivers and rally teams.

  • Lower Cost: Manual transmissions are cheaper to produce and maintain than automatic transmissions, making them a more affordable option for drivers.

However, there are also some drawbacks to manual transmissions, such as:

  • Less Convenience: Shifting gears in a manual transmission requires more effort and attention from the driver, which can be tiring or distracting in heavy traffic or long drives.

  • Higher Learning Curve: Learning to drive a manual can be more challenging than learning to drive an automatic, especially for those who are used to driving automatics.

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Q: When did Subaru stop making standard transmissions?
A: Subaru began phasing out standard transmissions in the early 2010s, with the majority of its models now only available with automatic transmissions.

Q: Why did Subaru stop making standard transmissions?
A: There were several reasons behind Subaru’s shift away from standard transmissions, including changing consumer preferences, stricter emissions and fuel efficiency regulations, and the cost and complexity of producing manual transmissions.

Q: What are the benefits of manual transmissions?
A: Manual transmissions offer greater control, better performance, and lower cost than automatic transmissions.

Q: What are the drawbacks of manual transmissions?
A: Manual transmissions can be less convenient and have a higher learning curve than automatic transmissions.


While Subaru’s decision to phase out standard transmissions may disappoint some car enthusiasts, it’s important to understand the reasons behind the shift and the benefits of automatic transmissions. As technology continues to evolve, it’s likely that we’ll see even more changes in the automotive industry, and it will be interesting to see how Subaru and other car manufacturers adapt to these trends.

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Billy Covington

With a passion for all things automotive, Billy is our go-to expert on Subaru performance upgrades and modifications. He's been featured in several car magazines and blogs, and his extensive knowledge and expertise make him a valuable member of our team. When he's not working on cars, he enjoys playing guitar and writing music.

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