Road and Track’s Jason Camisa is not only known as a huge BMW-fan, but also a proponent of manual transmissions. In his latest article he touches on the disappearing world of manual transmissions and its root cause.
Just last year, our own Hugo Becker talked about the “Obsolescence of Manual Transmissions – BMW M3/M4″ and share some of his thoughts on the disappearing of those manual gearboxes.
But, we’ve reached a crossroads for manual transmission lovers, especially for high performance cars. The automatic and automated manual gearboxes are actually the appropriate choice. More so if the car is one that you intend to use on the track.
The newest automated manual gearboxes shift faster and more appropriately than almost any driver can accomplish with a manual gearbox. It rev matches on downshifts and always seems to be in the appropriate gear. And since the automation for the gearbox includes a level of intelligence (without the accompanying ‘red mist’) they won’t destroy themselves in an ill-chosen downshift from sixth to second on the track.
And yet in Europe there is no need for a manual option. What is different about European consumers that they eschew a manual gearbox for an automated transmission? Europeans grew up driving cars with manual transmissions coupled to fairly small engines. And there was nothing sporting about that proposition. In addition European cities seem to have denser traffic (at slower speeds) than most North American counterparts.
Here is an excerpt from Camisa’s article.
Despite the dimensional bloat, the number of manual-gearbox 3 Series sold annually in North America hasn’t decreased significantly in the last 25 years. Meanwhile, BMW’s best automatic has evolved from a miserable four-speed to a computer-controlled eight-speed that shifts faster than any human, accelerates quicker, and offers better fuel economy.
But as a result of the Germans’ single-minded quest to sell more cars, the brand is attracting incremental buyers who aren’t enthusiasts. In other words, the take rate is falling.
Blame the image-conscious consumers who spend $279 a month to lease a heavily subsidized status symbol. And given that some of those amazing lease rates apply only to automatic-transmission models, and that many dealers won’t even stock manual BMWs, it’s a miracle that anyone buys a stick Three in the first place. The fact that the 3 Series still appeals to the same number of manual-transmission buyers as it did 25 years ago is a win for the stick. BMW just needs to wake up to it.