BMW: Keep Lining Up for a Stick, and We'll Keep Making One

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
bmw keep lining up for a stick and well keep making one

The list of new vehicles available with a manual transmission grows shorter each year, and for the vast majority of the driving populace, that’s just fine. But driving enthusiasts bemoan each model lost to the advancing wave of computer-controlled everything, closely keeping tabs on which vehicles can still be had with a three-pedal setup. A few might even buy one.

Even sporting European brands are not immune. In BMW’s stable, the 5 Series jettisoned its last 5 and 6 Series sticks (by then relegated to M models) in 2016. Other models went two pedal-only in recent years, including the 228i, 328i, and 428i. But BMW says there’s still a flame that keeps the transmission option alive in certain models, and it’ll keep building them until buyers give up, or our robot overlords take over.

Specifically, BMW means the M variants of the 2, 3, and 4 Series.

Speaking to Car and Driver, BMW M boss Frank van Meel said the manual transmission will not die with the current generation of Bimmer products. However, with autonomy looming on the horizon, he envisions a date when the manual transmission no longer has any practical use (because there won’t be a human driver behind the wheel).

“The bad news is that if we one day have autonomous cars, then the manual cannot work anymore,” van Meel said, “so that would be, let’s say, the natural end. But that’s still some time away.”

Live it up while you still can, seems to be the message here.

In terms of product, one particular model sees a surprising number of buyers opt for a stick shift, ensuring the manual’s availability for at least the near future.

“The BMW M2 Competition still has the manual for a reason, because in the U.S. we have more than a 50 percent take rate on manual transmissions for the M2,” the M chief said. “Buyers vote with their wallets for manual transmissions. Now, being an engineer, I would say from a rational standpoint that even though the manual gearbox is lighter than an automated gearbox, it uses more fuel and is slower, so it doesn’t really make sense . . . But from the emotional standpoint, a lot of customers say, ‘I don’t care, I want to have one.’”

van Meel added, “As long as we have these take rates on M2, and also the M3 and M4, we’re going to offer manuals, because we listen to our customers. Even though as an engineer I’d say we don’t necessarily need one. If demand is so high, then why not fulfill it?”

[Images: BMW]

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  • Funky D Funky D on Jul 31, 2018

    I have been driving manuals since they were primarily 4 speeds (then 5, then 6, ...) and have loved them all. My current ride was equipped with a DCT, and while it is a much different experience than the 3-pedal one, it is pretty much the same amount of fun. As long as I have that mechanical connection with the drivetrain, I still have that oneness with the car that I have long enjoyed with the manual. My next car will be a 3-pedal manual if I can get it, but if it DCTs from now on, I can live with that.

  • Stuki Stuki on Aug 01, 2018

    "It works, I had a loaded 2015 Mustang GT with radar cruise and it wasn’t a problem. If need be the system simply cut off if I didn’t down shift based on whatever reasoning was programmed into the system." Man, so even the 'Stang has this, now! Sweet! The world's a slightly less depressing place than I assumed it was, then!!

  • Kwik_Shift Oh, just wait until everything is electrified and linked. Then they'll say "Demand is up!", thus raising prices exponentially. They got you under their control now.
  • Cprescott Yawn.
  • 28-Cars-Later Wrangler people are crazy.
  • 28-Cars-Later "Transition" to layoffs, this guy is the Bob(s) from Office Space.
  • Vap65689119 As a release engineer I also worked in quality, if they are serious they should look at Toyotas business model which has their suppliers as genuine partners, thats how you get a quality product