BMW M Customers Surrender 'Save The Manuals' War

Aaron Cole
by Aaron Cole
bmw m customers surrender 8216 save the manuals war

If the fight to save manuals is going to continue for much longer, it had better make gains in one of its historically important battlegrounds.

Only around 1 in 4 new BMW M3 models have a manual transmission, according to the manufacturer. That’s a steep drop from the reported 53 percent of buyers who opted to row their own in the last-generation M3 sedan — and the news for the manual M4 doesn’t get much better.

Buyers are opting for a manual transmission in the hardtop M4 only about 17 percent of the time, according to BMW. That’s down from 40 percent of the previous generation’s M3 Coupe buyers, according to reports.

BMW won’t comment specifically on the production numbers and the transmission splits, which have circulated on forums in two different forms. Last year, Road and Track reported that 45 percent of every last-generation M3 was a manual.

Thomas Plucinsky, who is manager of BMW’s corporate communications in the United States, said the production totals “sounded right,” but wouldn’t specify if the transmission splits were correct and added that the automaker wouldn’t correct reports — even if they were wrong.

A BMW spokesman added further that the overall mix for the U.S. for the last-generation M3 was closer to 25 or 30 percent.

The final production mix according to the outside reports is closer to 44 percent before production of the convertible M3 ended.

The purported numbers by other outlets, which come from two different sources, represent a substantial decline for one of the few remaining bastions of manual transmissions: European sportscars.

Earlier this month, head of BMW’s M division Frank van Meel said that the future for manual M cars from BMW “doesn’t look bright.

“The DCT and auto ’boxes are faster and they have better fuel consumption,” he told Autocar.

In the United States, only roughly 1 in 10 M4 Convertibles are fitted with the six-speed manual gearboxes. Toward the end of its lifecycle, nearly half of the last generation of M3 Convertibles were fitted with manual transmissions.

“We have a very enthusiastic following for our brand, the reality of it is we make manual transmissions for this market. We see that our customers want manuals, we’re willing to fight for manuals for this market — as long as there’s a good business case we’ll make them,” Plucinsky said.

When asked if the number of manual transmissions sold today represented a good business case, Plucinsky added: “Today, yes it is.”

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  • Thx_zetec Thx_zetec on Jul 26, 2015

    Google search found interesting article on transmissions in heavy-duty trucks. It said with highly experienced driver manuals worked great, good fuel economy and were "bullet proof". But newer drivers are less skilled and the auto works better with them. Apparently older drivers retiring (no surprise) and younger potential drivers less likely to be skilled in manual operation.

  • Chan Chan on Jul 27, 2015

    Manuals make a lot of sense in cruisers or cars with less than, say, 400 hp. How much driving involvement can you gain when you spend as much time shifting as you do accelerating with a 600hp supercar? That said, holy clickbait title. All that I got from this article was that the manual take rate on new BMWs is decreasing and will likely continue to decrease, not that BMW will stop offering manual M cars.

  • Del My father bought GM cars in the 60's, but in 1971 he gave me a used Datsun (as they were called back then), and I'm now in my 70's and am happy to say that GM has been absent from my entire adult life. This article makes me gladder than ever.
  • TheEndlessEnigma That's right GM, just keep adding to that list of reasons why I will never buy your products. This, I think, becomes reason number 69, right after OnStar-Cannot-Be-Disabled-And-It-Comes-Standard-Whether-Or-Not-You-Want-It and Screw-You-American-Car-Buyer-We-Only-Make-Trucks-And-SUVs.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Does this not sound and feel like the dawn of ICE automobiles in the early 20th century, but at double or triple speed speed!!There were a bunch of independent car markers by the late 1910’s. By the mid 20’s, we were dropping down to 10 or 15 producers as Henry was slashing the price of the Model T. The Great Depression hit, and we are down to the big three and several independents. For EVs, Tesla bolted out of the gate, the small three are in a mad dash to keep up. Europe was caught flat footed due to the VW scandal. Lucid, Lordstown, & Rivian are scrambling to up production to generate cash. Now the EV leader has taken a page from the Model T and is slashing prices putting the rest of the EV market in a tail spin. Deja vu……
  • Michael Eck With those mods, I wonder if it's tuned...
  • Mike-NB2 I'm not a Jeep guy, but I really, really like the 1978 Jeep Cherokee 4xe concept.