BMW Would Rather Phase Out Its Manuals Than Borrow a U.S. Gearbox

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
bmw would rather phase out its manuals than borrow a u s gearbox

To industry watchers, the manual transmission’s future seems as rosy as that of the Steve Miller Band, circa 1983.

Automakers on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific have pried the stick shift out of an ever-increasing number of vehicles, and some manufacturers have chosen to drop the technology altogether. With market share reaching never-before-seen lows, the three-pedal lifestyle seems headed towards an unavoidable (and imminent) grave.

Blame technology. Blame laziness. Blame yourself.

Over in Munich, the sentiment seems quite similar. BMW has long occupied the ranks of true driver’s cars, but its leaders make no bones about the brand’s eventual abandonment of the row-your-own transmission, even in relatively stick-happy Europe. Lately, even dual-clutch transmissions appear to be in Bimmer’s bad books. And as for an American solution to its manual transmission problem, well, forget that.

Speaking to Australia’s Drive, Peter Quintus, vice-president of sales and marketing for BMW’s M division, envisions a looming world of automatic transmissions. The advent of new technology has made conventional torque converter autos so efficient and quick, he claims, the industry won’t need anything else. BMW will likely follow.

“The DCT once had two advantages: it was light and its shift speeds were higher,” he said. “Now, a lot of that shift-time advantage has disappeared as automatics get better and smarter.”

Quintus has previously stated that the manual transmission probably will probably disappear from the brand in six or seven years. While the option once used to offer the most cogs, nine-and ten-speed automatics have proliferated, erasing the efficiency edge. There’s undeniable sportiness in a stick, but rising horsepower and torque figures have rendered many high-output drivetrains a no-go zone for manuals.

An output of 450 hp and 450 lb-ft is about the limit of what a manual tranny can handle without impacting long-term durability, Quintus said. That’s bad news for M aficionados. When asked why BMW doesn’t simply source a stick from its brawny Detroit competitors, Quintus was blunt.

“We looked at US gearboxes. We found they were heavy and the shift quality was awful,” he said. “I’m not even sure the next generation of M3 and M4 models from BMW will have the option of a manual gearbox.”

Last month, we told you that fewer than 1 percent of non-M 3 Series BMWs in U.S. inventories are manual-shift cars, with the take rate rising to 2 percent when M-badged models are included. Purists will scream, holler, pound their fists and drink themselves into a foggy oblivion, but the epitaph has already been written by the consumer.

[Image: BMW Group]

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  • Jaybee2 Jaybee2 on Apr 27, 2017

    I don't think one can generalize and say it's only the mainstream, non-enthusiast cars that are driving the demise of the MT – look at Porsche GT3, Mercedes AMG-GT, Ferrari, Aston and any of several other high end sports machines – none available with MT (altho' I did just very recently read that Porsche will bring back MT for the GT3 in '18). I think there will continue to be a small but vocal demand for MT esp in sports-oriented cars, but the issue is whether the manufacturers will serve that market demographic. And unless one has the necessary chops to swap or coin out an auto for a MT, it is foreseeable that most people will just throw in the towel. As @SteveMar indicates above, the modern autos are very good and in some instances better than a MT.

  • REVitHigh REVitHigh on Apr 28, 2017

    Nobody in the US wants a manual so manufacturers are forced to comply with what the customers want in the largest car market.

  • Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!
  • Sgeffe As was stated in another comment, the FAA nominee went down in flames. But the NTSB chairwoman certainly didn’t, and she’s certainly not qualified either!Lots of this kind of stuff going on both sides of the aisle—Ben Carson would have arguably made a better Surgeon General than HUD Secretary under Trump, for example.
  • Art Vandelay Interesting, the Polestar 2 I had as a rental utilized Android Automotive which is what GM said it is going to exclusively, yet it still offers Apple CarPlay according to this. Wonder if GM will do the same.
  • Stuart de Baker EVs just aren't ready for prime time for those with a single car and who take road trips. Being able to charge as soon as you arrive at a charging station, and even the chargers working on your car is a crapshoot. In the former case, you could have to wait for nearly an hour while someone else is charging.I also don't find EVs particularly fun to drive (I've driven a Tesla Model S and an Ionic 5.) I LOVE driving my '08 Civic (stick). I love the handling, the feel and responsiveness of the engine, the precise steering (the Michelin Pilot Ultra Sport tires help, but even with the snows on, the car is a joy). I have 152k on the clock, and hopefully another 25 years or so of driving (I was born early in the Eisenhower Administration and I have exceptionally healthy habits), and I'm going to try to keep the Civic for the duration.My Civic causes a less global warming emissions than some of these humongous battery operated trucks.
  • FreedMike They should throw in a Lordstown pickup with every purchase. Make it the “vapor twofer.”