The demise of the age-old manual handbrake is being driven by convenience, with electronic parking brakes making motorists easier to use
The demise of the age-old manual handbrake is being driven by convenience, with electronic parking brakes offering motorists easier operation – they activate at the touch of a button and release automatically when the driver presses the accelerator pedal. And it will spell the end of the hooligan handbrake turns made famous in big-screen car chases and by seasoned rally drivers.
The handbrake is fast becoming a thing of the automotive past as manufacturers are phasing it out in their latest cars in favor of electronic parking brakes. A full 83 percent of all new mainstream models in store are now sold with an electronic parking brake – up from 76 percent last year and 70 percent in 2019.
Statistics on how many new models are now being sold with electronic parking brakes were released as part of online retail platform CarGurus’ annual Manual Handbrake Report, out this year in its third edition.
It reviewed a total of 642 new models offered by 38 mainstream brands in the UK. It turned out that 550 cars now have an electronic alternative to the handbrake as standard. That means only 92 new cars will have a pull lever handbrake. Some popular models have only recently made the switch.
Cars like the BMW 4 Series, Seat Leon and Vauxhall Corsa – which is set to become Britain’s best-selling new car in 2021 – have all ditched traditional handbrakes in the past year, the report confirms. Meanwhile, some manufacturers have already applied the manual handbrake across the entire model range.
Big names like Volvo, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz now no longer sell a single car with handbrakes in the UK as every car in the brochure has an electronic version. Other big brands are on the verge of joining them, with fewer than a handful of handbrake models being offered.
For example, only one percent of the new Audis have the option of a manual handbrake – the Audi A1 Sportback – while only six percent of the Peugeot range offer the traditional brake. But while push-button alternatives are more convenient and take up less cabin space, if they go wrong, they are usually more expensive to fix.
The average cost of repairing a faulty electronic parking brake is £831, according to used car warranty provider MotorEasy, whose damage data goes back five years. The bill for repairing a faulty handbrake now averages £149. That is a difference of 682 euros.
The most expensive electronic parking brake repair cost in MotorEasy’s records is a £2,005 bill to repair the system in a 10 year old Range Rover. And problems with the electronic parking brake are not what you would call rare.
In 2017, Volkswagen had to recall 766,000 cars worldwide, including 134,000 British models, due to a recurring problem with electronic parking brakes. This affected the hugely popular Golf hatchback, Touran MPV, Tiguan SUV and Passat family sedan and station wagon.
In the same year, Tesla also voluntarily recalled 53,000 Model S and Model X models worldwide due to a parking brake failure — while Audi, Renault, and Toyota have also had to recall all models in the past due to similar problems with electronic parking systems.
One brand that will not be forced to do such recalls is Abarth. Fiat’s performance arm is the only mass-market manufacturer to offer manual handbrakes on all models in its range, although that only consists of souped-up versions of the previous-generation 500 superminis.
Even Dacia, known for their budget engines, has started
to equip its latest models, including the new Sandero supermini, with electronic parking brakes.
CarGurus says the drop from 24 percent of new cars with handbrakes last year to just 17 percent this year is due to two factors. The first is the transition of the vehicle market towards electric and hybrid models, which in most cases use electronic parking brakes.
The second is Mitsubishi’s exit from the UK market this year, bringing with it a number of models with manual handbrakes that were included in the 2020 dates.
Chris Knapman, Editor at CarGurus UK, said, “Last year we predicted that the manual handbrake would only be a few more years into existence on new cars and our latest data gives us no reason to believe otherwise, as there is an even bigger one There decrease in 2021 than between 2020 and 2019.
“The rapid transition to electric vehicles will only accelerate the demise of the manual handbrake, leaving many traditionalists looking for the tactile feel and mechanical simplicity of a manual handbrake scratching their heads.
“Nevertheless, for drivers who want to use this feature, there are still certain models of new cars with manual handbrakes in a number of classes.”