By on June 28, 2017

BMW 2 Series, Image: BMW

BMW plans to streamline its manufacturing process by providing fewer model variants and eliminating less popular engine or equipment options. The goal here is to free up capital for research and development spending in the coming years, according to a Wednesday announcement from the brand’s chief finance officer, Nicolas Peter.

With most German automakers already pushing heavily into the realm of electric vehicles, BMW’s strong presence in China is forcing it to further bolster its efforts in EV development. The country’s particularly aggressive emission regulations and mandates on electric vehicle sales means any manufacturer hoping to persist within its borders will have to ensure 12 percent of its fleet is electric by 2020 — and BMW isn’t ready.

As a result, the automaker is trimming fat wherever it can find it. Unfortunately, that means eliminating the manual gearbox for the 2 Series in the United States and abandoning certain engine options for models across the globe. While BMW wasn’t explicit as to which motors won’t be returning, odds are good it will be the fun ones that don’t sell as well, plus the diesels. 

“In the 5 series we have four diesel engines on offer. I would not bet on there being four diesel engines on offer in the next generation vehicle,” Peter explained.

While depriving North America of a manual transmission variant of its most enjoyable-to-drive car won’t win it new fans, BMW is responding out of necessity. According to Reuters, the automaker spent 5.5 percent of its total revenue on R&D in 2016 and needs to bring that up swiftly if it is to have EVs ready for China.

While sales in the U.S. have stagnated slightly, BMW has witnessed double-digit sales growth in China and remains on track to keep pace with the launch of a longer-wheelbase 5 Series and a new X1, Peter said. But only if it can keep itself in the electric car game by boosting development, hence the cost-cutting measures.

However, BMW can’t simply terminate whole models from its lineup and expect to immediately turn a profit from electric vehicle sales — which are still weak, even globally. It needs to maintain internal combustion volume, but it doesn’t need to provide those vehicles with a plethora of options.

“We have over one hundred steering wheels on offer. Do we need that many variants?” Peter asked reporters.

If you can remember back to the 1990s, when Chrysler seemed to have only two steering wheels for its entire fleet, then you already know the answer to the question. No, of course not. No automaker needs one hundred distinctive steering wheels. That’s absolutely insane and BMW is right to scale back on them. We just wish they’d have stopped there and decided not to take away the manual-transmission 2 Series, as well.

[Image: BMW AG]

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28 Comments on “BMW Drops Manual Transmission From Best Model to Help Pay for R&D...”

  • avatar

    That’s a shame.

  • avatar

    Meh. . I have an E46 M3 manual, and I could care less about BMW killing manual transmissions (they will likely be extinct on all but trucks in 10 years). These newer turbo charged engines are far better when mated to a DCT/PDK.

    • 0 avatar

      “manual transmissions will likely be extinct on all but trucks in 10 years”

      They’re nearly extinct in Euro big rigs already (and good riddance too).

      • 0 avatar

        Aside from most of the BMW lineup and a handful of Audis, most European premium cars were never offered with a stick option. Mercedes and Jaguar come to mind as distinctively lacking a manual option in most of their lineup (not that it mattered). And where a manual transmission was available the fun factor was lacking (SLK, C-Class), though a first generation SLK230 Kompressor with a stick is pretty enjoyable to drive in its own unique way.

    • 0 avatar

      They’ll be extinct in trucks too, maybe even sooner than in cars- they are going fast.

    • 0 avatar

      You can keep the paddle shifters. Either full auto or full manual.

    • 0 avatar

      Except BMW isn’t putting the DCT in everything – they’re force feeding the 8-speed auto in most of their cars.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Is there any reason to own a BMW anymore?

  • avatar

    Peter De Lorenzo describes BMW’s situation pretty nicely:

    BMW’s Long Slow Slide Into Mediocrity

    • 0 avatar
      Chris FOM

      The problem is that article points out a number of problems without giving a real answer in how to solve the. Return to a focus on driving dynamics and simplicity? A manufacturer can’t be profitable that way. A few models sure, but if that’s your entire lineup you go the way of Lotus. Bloated, heavy cars? Thank modern safety regulations and consumer demands for acceptable levels of NVH. For all their benefits the only way to meet those standards is to add weight. Too many models targeting too many niches? The dealers grips sure, but as a consumer the fact that I can pick a model almost custom-made for my particular wants is a feature, not a bug. The REAL truth is both simpler and more depressing. BMW built their brand and reputation on selling a certain kind of car to a certain consumer. But they painted themselves into a corner: there weren’t enough traditional BMW customers to keep the company afloat. So they compromised, trading their traditional brand in a play for marketshare. And it worked, for a while, until the other luxury brands (all of the, to varying degrees, but especially Mercedes-Benz) realized that BMW’s driving dynamics weren’t quite so untouchable any more, and they could make cars that handled almost as well without the luxury compromises that handling used to require, especially since BMW wasn’t making those same sacrifices anymore anyway. The sad truth is the BMW the die-yards want can’t exist. They’d either go under or get bought out. But that also means that the characteristics that used to make BMW special are harder and harder to find, and it’s not hard to make the case that Mercedes has been more effective at adding a little BMW to their cars than BMW has been at adding a little Mercedes, which makes the BMW harder and harder to justify while leaving their original, traditional customers without anywhere to go.

      And that, above all else, is why I hope Alfa Romeo does the impossible and succeeds. Because the Giulia in the best BMW sedan in a very long time if they can get the reliability problem fixed.

      • 0 avatar

        Good analysis. Everyone always says why doesn’t BMW build something like the 2002 again, but they only sold about 10,000 2002s per year in the US back in those days. Even in the 1970s there weren’t may people willing to pay loaded Buick LeSabre prices for a 98 HP 2002 without A/C, power steering, or even a radio. Such a bare-bones expensive car today would be even less popular – and I say this having owned a 2002 for over 10 years. The market has changed and BMW has had to change with it.

  • avatar

    I’d start with cutting down on the steering wheels, mirrors, shift knobs and infotainment units. Audi has used the same parts on everything from the A4 to the A8, and guess what? If the part is high quality enough for the top of the range, it will work throughout the lower bits. Plus you get the volume discounts, which lets you invest your money in what makes your cars sell in the first place.

    Not that it matters given most of BMW’s line isn’t worth the premium.

  • avatar

    Hans: I think there is a market for 3 wheeled, elevated rear/lower front, 3 passenger door, frameless window, “sedan”

    Dieter: sounds great!

    Hans: but maybe we should cut back elsewhere to save a little R & D money on some frills – how about dropping manual transmissions?

    Dieter: Yes! Let’s make BMW great again!

  • avatar

    To the brothers Wiesmann: we need you now more than ever.

  • avatar

    This makes perfect sense. They are DECADES behind the curve in fwd development.

  • avatar

    BMW is just about completely dead to me.

    Nice job boners. Burned all that brand image, goodwill, driving enjoyment to the ground.

    What reason does anyone have anymore to buy a BMW? A badge that meant something 15+ years ago?

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    A year-and-a-half ago I drove my buddy three hours North to get him to the 2006 M5 he’d bought. Fine car in great shape with savage acceleration. Nine months later he traded it straight across for a 2013 335iX. It’s just ‘an car’. I am disappoint.

  • avatar

    No more BMW’s for me.
    Had two.
    Both disappointing…..
    ……and this little revelation clinches it.
    BMW has not only lost its way; It has lost its soul.


  • avatar

    I grew up bleeding Blau mit Weiss. I sold off a nearly-as-new Sentra SE-R to pick up a beautifully kept 1974 2002, then owned a 1985 3-series and a 1993 325is. Today, I’m not really sure if I’d go down the road of buying a new(er) BMW. I just don’t see how they are different enough from any number of other cars out there to justify the expense. The Roundel simply isn’t enough for me to go there. Maybe if I had some “fun” money, I’d look to a used 135i where I could still potentially find one with a manual. Otherwise, meh. Makes me kind of sad…

  • avatar
    V-Strom rider

    I can’t speak to BMW sedans or SUVs as I’ve never owned, or even driven one. However, I do own an M235i convertible with the excellent ZF 8-speed torque converter paddle-shift auto and I love it. I’ve had plenty of manuals in my time but now (at 62) I’m happy to be more relaxed most of the time, and use the paddles when I want to have a crack on a nice road. I don’t do track days.

    It seems to me that a lot of BMW hate is based on either a wish to return to the past (I live in the present) or some other form of wishful thinking (i.e. what could be built as opposed to what is built). Seriously, what else on today’s market will give me the real-world fun factor that I get from my car? And I mean a convertible of similar size, price, performance and refinement because that’s what I was looking for when I made my choice. Did I miss a better alternative?

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you! I completely agree. I have ’16 228i xdrive with the 8 speed. Sweetest transmission/engine combo I’ve ever driven – fun enough to get frisky with and daily drive. Maybe the 2 series is the only product line BMW offers that harkens back to the old days. But I think folks pour on the hate for BMW a little too thick. Yes, they have made some mistakes, but, overall, their cars look and feel competitive. Not everyone wants a 2002 all over again – they just want some of that in their sedan or SUV. Who cares?

  • avatar

    I am sure now that BMW doesn’t make manuals we can all drive Lotus automobiles, and then Jack and Ronnie can sing poetic about virtues of their irrelevant test drives. That’s assuming one can find a Lotus or cares about what it is.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Sad. Never driven a 2 but I imagine they’re loads of fun. I swapped into a lease on a 6 speed M3, and while it can pin me back in the seat while while guiding me to my destination and playing music through a decent stereo, its obnoxious rather than subtle and I’m sure it would be a nightmare after warranty. Someone else may pay to preserve it, but I’ll focus on keeping my E39 M5 on the road instead. That’ll be more satisfying and probably cheaper too.

    Sure every automaker is struggling to evolve, but this move by BMW feels like the nail in a coffin that’s already welded shut.

  • avatar

    Here’s a free cost cutting suggestion. Use and or design amber rear turn signals that can work globally and not just outside North America. The BMWNA tail lights are quite inferior to the ECE versions and by some smart engineering I am sure they could solve this problem.

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