I dont' see why they would delete the column shift option, although it does seem through the last few years they have been making it less 'made for it' if you know what I mean.
With the introduction of the EF, the under dash hand brake was deleted. As you all know it was moved in between the centre console and the driver's seat. The column shift hand brake was located under the dash again though, but as a foot pedal. With the AU, the front seat base wasn't one piece, it was the standard front seats with a cushion in the middle, unlike all the previous models in which it was one piece.
I think they are trying to make it less suited for column shift, because they want to lose the cab feel. People don't want to see column shift bits in their T-Bar auto.
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