Clutch Performance? Even BMW Is Eliminating The Manual Transmission

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
clutch performance even bmw is eliminating the manual transmission

The manual transmission isn’t dead. But it appears to be dying. Now Munich is making sure everybody knows BMW has a hand in the demise of the third pedal.

At the traditional core of BMW’s U.S. lineup, the manual transmission 7 Series disappeared three decades ago. So foreign is a manual shifter to buyers in the full-size luxury limo category, this seems entirely natural.

M models aside, the U.S. market lost BMW 5 Series manual transmission availability after the 2014 model year.

What’s next?

“Across the world, virtually all of our 3 Series models and above already have automatic transmissions,” BMW sales boss Ian Robertson tells Car And Driver.

“We will certainly see fewer and fewer manual transmissions being offered,” says Robertson.

Ultimate Driving Machine?

BMW certainly doesn’t need to be picked on. Manual shifters flew the coop at Ferrari. The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio that was going to arrive in the United States with a manual transmission, like the show cars that preceded its U.S. launch, is an auto-only car. Of the 38 vehicles delivered by automakers to my driveway in 2016, only 4 were fitted with a third pedal, and that ratio is actually far higher than what we see in the marketplace at large.

Nevertheless, it’s abundantly clear from Ian Robertson’s perspective that BMW, once a bastion of hope for drivers, won’t be offering manual transmissions on the 3 Series much longer.

Besides the 7 Series and 5 Series, manual transmissions are already unavailable on the X1, X3, X4, X5, and X6, five utility vehicles that account for half of the BMWs sold in America. Regular variants of the 6 Series are auto-only. The i3 and i8 are predictably auto-only.

This leaves a limited part of the range with manual offerings, and in the 3 Series — BMW’s most popular model line — the manual seems to be on the way out.

“In the M segment, purists still love the stick shift,” BMW’s Robertson told C/D. “Whether we offer it in every model remains to be seen. In some instances, it is selling in really small numbers now.”

Indeed, fewer than 300 of the roughly 10,700 BMW 3 Series in BMW’s U.S. inventory are equipped with a manual; just 2 percent. And of those cars, 75 percent are in M3s, meaning fewer than 1 percent of non-M 3 Series are manual-shift cars.

When the current F30, sixth-generation BMW 3 Series is replaced next year by the seventh-generation G20 3 Series, don’t expect anything other than an automatic transmission. A vocal minority will question BMW’s sanity, but the current 3 Series’ order books provide BMW with all the justification it requires to kill off another manual transmission.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • 06M3S54B32 06M3S54B32 on Mar 24, 2017

    " Manuals are good for slow cars you have to keep in the powerband, but when you have power to spare that is way less of an issue. At a certain power level I’d say a manual can even become a hindrance. It’s a new ball game." Sportyaccordy has hit the nail right on the head. Brilliantly put.

  • Daniel Jones Daniel Jones on Feb 25, 2023

    Safety pro’s

    1 a manual car can use the clutch to assist in braking which helps on the long downhill runs.

    2 a manual is foreign to most kids who steal cars today. Seen several reports of car jacking that end up with the thieves stalling out then can’t even start it again.

    3 good ol pop the clutch to start when a battery dies (depending on situation it could be a life saver)

    4 I can apply power more precisely and smoother than an auto.

    other non safety pro’s-

    cheaper to maintain and repair

    manuals also weigh less.

    Skipping gears

    cons- traffic stop n go can get annoying.

    that guy who gets right up on you on a 14% hill grade.

    I own a 2000 Bmw 540i 6 spd 324lbft makes for an outstanding beast of a car. At 2500rpms in second gear that car really can sh!t N git.

    owned a 528 back in the 90’s and loved it so last year I saw this car and drove it, I was sold on it immediately.

    teaching my boys to drive a manual has been fun, they brag to their friends that they can drive one now.

  • Tassos What was the last time we had any good news from Ford? (or GM for that matter?)The last one was probably when Alan Mulally was CEO. Were you even born back then?Fields was a total disaster, then they go hire this clown from Toyota's PR department, the current Ford CEO, Fart-ley or something.He claims to be an auto enthusiast too (unlike Mary Barra who is even worse, but of course always forgiven, as she is the proud owner of a set of female genitals.
  • Tassos I know some would want to own a collectible Mustang. (sure as hell not me. This crappy 'secretary's car' (that was exactly its intended buying demo) was as sophisticated (transl. : CRUDE) as the FLintstone's mobile. Solid Real Axle? Are you effing kidding me?There is a huge number of these around, so they are neither expensive nor valuable.WHen it came out, it was $2,000 or so new. A colleague bought a recent one with the stupid Ecoboost which also promised good fuel economy. He drives a hard bargain and spends time shopping and I remember he paid $37k ( the fool only bought domestic crap, but luckily he is good with his hands and can fix lots of stuff on them).He told me that the alleged fuel economy is obtained only if you drive it like a VERY old lady. WHich defeats the purpose, of course, you might as well buy a used Toyota Yaris (not even a Corolla).
  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.