According to Glass's Information Services, the growing popularity of automatic gearboxes is becoming increasingly evident in the United Kingdom used car market, with most cars now able to recover up to 100% of the additional cost of specifying an automatic transmission as an option.

Sales of cars with automatic gearboxes are expected to grow beyond 100,000 in 2003, compared to 20,638 just five years ago. In the luxury car sector there are now many models that are only saleable with automatic gearboxes - manuals can be unwanted almost at any price.

"Where affordability is little obstacle to the buyer, it seems that manual cars now have a lesser appeal," said Glass's car editor Johnathan Brown.

"Certain sectors of the UK car market have seen more notable increases in the number of automatics being specified by buyers" said Brown.

"Interestingly, the bulk of these additional automatic gearbox sales are linked to diesel rather than petrol derivatives. Upper Medium, Premium Upper Medium, Large Premium, Luxury Saloon, Compact MPV, MPV, 4X4 Off Road and 4X4 Lifestyle have all recently been characterised by a significant growth in the number of diesel auto registrations. These are tangible increases - only a few of these sectors show an associated reduction in the number of petrol autos."

The latest diesel engine technology coupled with auto transmission clearly has a promising future in the UK market. "Our experience suggests diesel autos are growing in popularity and this has meant residual values for these vehicles are particularly high at present. The manufacturers who already provide cars for this market are enjoying huge success and it appears we are a very long way from market demand being satisfied," Brown added.

Glass's points to several reasons for the current steady growth in sales of automatics. "Cities and motorways in the UK have the displeasure of playing host to some of the busiest traffic conditions in the whole of Europe. Given the ongoing steady increase in levels of congestion, we expect to see a higher proportion of automatics on our roads over the coming years."

Brown noted: "Consumers are also now more aware that modern automatics no longer conform to the stereotype of being cumbersome, thirsty and less reliable than manuals. In addition, elderly drivers are more receptive to automatics and the UK's ageing population will certainly contribute to a higher demand as time goes by."