2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on stage at Chicago Auto Show

Consider this a sign of the times: Even though Chevrolet is readying its highest-performance Camaro ever, General Motors executives are reportedly already hedging their bets that over 50 percent of all 2012 ZL1 orders will be for automatic transmission models.

The high expected order rate for automatics paired with the 6.2-liter, 580-horsepower ZL1 not only follows a growing market preference for two-pedal vehicles, it also suggests that even sporty car buyers are noting that advancements in design have all but eliminated the performance deficit long associated with this type of transmission.

Low take rates also means that fewer models are even available with manual transmissions, and it's a problem that's only getting more acute. With fewer new cars being fitted with manual transmissions, opportunities for learning how to drive a three-pedal car (along with people who can teach how to drive them) are fewer and further between. The result? Even fewer manual transmissions.

According to the Ward's Auto report, fully 89 percent of 2010 model-year passenger cars were fitted with automatic gearboxes. In the case of Chevrolet's Camaro, even the existing SS model is trending at 70 percent automatic, and that's higher than the 65 percent take rate among base Corvette purchasers.

The Oshawa, Ontario-built Camaro ZL1 is expected in dealers in the first quarter of 2012.