BMW, please keep the manuals!

Interesting, Others | January 24th, 2015 by 43
bmw m4 coupe gear shifter 750x500

It’s rumored that BMW’s M Division will be ridding itself of the manual transmission, a travesty in the eyes of most enthusiasts. I can understand …

It’s rumored that BMW’s M Division will be ridding itself of the manual transmission, a travesty in the eyes of most enthusiasts. I can understand their reasoning behind this; the manual transmission is no longer necessary for performance and in fact, compared to its automated sibling, is actually a hindrance to performance.

On top of this, developing an M car with a manual adds extra development cost which sometimes can be passed on as a cost to the customer.

2013 bmw m5 0721 750x500

BMW’s new DCT transmissions are far better suited for performance driving as they offer lightning fast shifts at the tip of your fingers. They also narrow the margin for error, making even mediocre drivers seen pro-level. The only real downside to the DCT transmission is cost and weight. But those are two quibbles are overshadowed by the increase in performance.

bmw m3 dct 750x458

The main reason, though, that the manual gearbox seems to be going by the wayside is the customers. No one wants them anymore. I was speaking to a representative of BMW North America recently, who told me that the take rate on manual transmission across the entire BMW lineup was around 7%.

Not 70%, not 17% but 7%.

That’s extremely low and probably not enough to cover the cost to keep the tooling around to build them. It would be cheaper for BMW to ditch the manual all together and use the 8-Speed ZF or their brilliant DCT exclusively.

It’s a shame because the manual transmission is a wonderful thing. Sure, it isn’t as fast as a modern automatic or dual-clutch transmission but, for driving engagement and involvement, there is nothing better. There’s little else that offers the kind of thrill that shifting your own gears can give, especially in a performance car, like an M3 or the upcoming M2. It’s not the fastest way of getting around, but it might be the most fun.

BMW is also one of the last automakers who still offer manuals in many of its cars. Currently, the 2,3,4 Series, the Z4, M3/4 and M5 can all be had with three pedals. Mercedes, for instance, has one model which is available with a manual transmission; the SLK 250. This alone could be a reason for BMW to keep manuals, especially in M cars. Exclusivity can be a wonderful thing, and if BMW’s M Division is exclusive in selling cars with row-you-own gearboxes, it would have a one-up over AMG and Quattro GmBh. Enthusiasts in the market for a C63 AMG might be swayed into getting an M3 due to its availability of a 6-Speed. BMW could further cement its status as the Ultimate Driving Machine this way.

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Another reason could be nostalgia. Once the manual dies, it’s never coming back. There’s no way that in fifty years, the automakers will start making manuals again. In a not so distant future (but not in a galaxy far, far away) electric cars will be the norm. Once that transition happens, the manual transmission will be gone forever. So BMW should keep them as long as financially possible. The manual transmission is at the end of its life-cycle. It’s still a healthy life, though, so it should be kept around as long as possible before being put out to pasture.

43 responses to “BMW, please keep the manuals!”

  1. tride says:

    That thing with the “more expensive development” is bullshit. We all know that the car wont be less expensive if it comes only auto……

    • Horatiu B. says:

      Maybe but they say it’s extra testing and development which adds to the cost of the car development, which might be or might not be passed onto the customer

      • ///M says:

        Using automatic only will lower the costs of development for sure but I absolutely don’t expect to see this advantage on the check when you order a new car. It gives me a good feeling to have the choice between automatic and stick, no matter what I choose. It is just, I could if I would :)
        My personal choice is the DCT, of course ;)

    • Antonio Denquet Williams says:

      True

  2. Jay says:

    I am an M customer and will be as long as a manual transmission is offered. If BMW decides to ditch manual transmissions, I will ditch BMW.

    • Billy The Hillbilly says:

      Yea, right. For what if I may be so bold to ask?

      • Jay says:

        I’m a manual transmission guy. I love my 1M. I will buy the M2 so long as it is offered in manual (we’re looking good so far from early reporting). I will go where the manual transmissions are. Don’t get me wrong, M division cars are tops among competition (which is why I bought one), but driving is meant to be fun. Flappy paddles and automatic transmissions are no fun, I don’t care what car those transmissions are attached to. So, to answer your question, whatever auto manufacturer offers a manual, that’s where I’ll spend my money. I don’t care if it’s a freakin’ go cart.

        • Billy The Hillbilly says:

          Thanks for the reply, I can see your point now. I am asking b/c everyone seems to be ditching the MT nowadays as fast as they can, I believe BMW M will keep it as long as they can, b/c they actually care about fun. But, I mean – once they ditch it as well, I seriously doubt there would be much of a choice if you still want to go manual. Now that probably never happends, but who knows*. Anyways, if you are willing to settle for a got cart if necessary, I guess you’re good :). And you’re going to have mountains of fun in it too.
          __
          * I actually think driving a car on a normal road as such will be banned from our lives as too dangerous at some point, once the Google vehicle will be able to drive itself without crashing into things, we are all screwed. I’ll go out and say it will take no more than 50 years. Every european government there is is really obsessed with 0 dead in car accidents policy and the’ll do whatever it takes to achieve it.

          • Jay says:

            Yessir, no worries. I hope you’re wrong about not driving ourselves around, or I hope I’m not around to see it. I feel like I’m gonna be like one of those guys refusing to give up the horse and buggy when the model-T came out. Oh well, I’m okay with that. I suppose we are getting to a point where guys like me need to stop selling our cars and start hording them because that’ll be the only way to get a manual transmission. Truth be told, I blame our generation for being lazy. We need to be passing the skills and the idea that driving can be fun on to our kids. They are the generation that will drive the demise of manuals by being complicit in or ignorant of what they are giving up.

            Cheers!

            -Jay

          • RoninX says:

            I look forward to the availability of autonomous cars because they will be a life-changing benefit for the elderly and the disabled. But I would be strongly opposed to any law limiting the ability to manually drive cars. At least in the US, I think you would have an armed revolt if the federal government tried to ban driving your own car. :)

  3. Mark says:

    The biggest is a lack of customer demand, if half of BMW M’s customers said they wanted it, they would find a way to keep it.

    I have not seen any evidence of people being prepared to pay a premium to have a MT. Remember anything made in tiny numbers will be expensive. I suspect increasing the price would only make the problem worse.

    • Billy The Hillbilly says:

      RIGHT?!? I can see that on the second hand market in our Czech bimmer community – everyone is blabbering about how is the ol’ BMW-ishness gone, how it really sucks if they can’t keep their top row six without turbocharging and then they go to find themselves some 530d (or a Kia in worst case scenario) as thier driver “because I have to this and that with that car, you know?” :-). The biggest pain in your ass right now would be having a 3.0+ BMW petrol engine from 90’s till now to sell, they sit in the classifieds forever. Now how’s that if sooo many guys r yearning to have classic overpowered NA bimmer? It seems to be pretty much the same in the new cars section.

  4. Alfredo says:

    well you can get still a used m3/5 which look way better than the current generation

  5. jgs says:

    To me , it’s simple: No manual = No buy

  6. Lawrence says:

    Do we have the numbers globally for the non-M cars? BMW manuals are really great fun to drive. Most men buy their cars manual. Cars like the 1, 3, 4 Series should have manuals, I think their take up rate is much higher. It would be great if we can have a look at the numbers for this range. I personally do not like steptronics because our family has had a few of those and they tend to give problem at a later stage in their life, whereas we have not had any problems with our manual BMWs AT ALL!

  7. Forty2 says:

    This is why I bit last year and ordered my 335i manual. I knew a refresh was coming and wanted to make sure I got what I wanted. BMW pulled the MT option from the 535i early last year and I found ONE in the entire USA, on the opposite coast. 5er is too big for me anyway…

    If BMW drops the MT entirely I guess that’s that. By then probably no other auto makers will offer them either except on the cheapest models. Acura and Volvo are now entirely manual-free, at least in the US.

  8. Vanja Kljaic says:

    Personally I believe there is no reason to get rid of the manual transmission, as in a few years the most normal models will eventually be hybrid which require a completely different gear changing philosophy to work properly. Until then, all performance versions will probably be offered with that option. I may be wrong, but in the long run, there is no chance that besides some special model we will see anything but an automatic when you order it.

  9. TheBingoBalls says:

    So of the 340,000 BMW’s sold in 2014, only 24,000 of those were MT…Sorry, I can’t even make the argument for keeping a MT from a business perspective. Everyone can complain and argue but if you guys ran a business and a product only had a 7% take rate, you guys would ditch that product without thinking. You would think with all the talk on forums and other media outlets (yeah, even those are sparse), the take rate would be somewhere between 10-15% but 7% is almost pathetic.

    • Horatiu B. says:

      To be fair, not all 340,000 come with the manual option.

      • TheBingoBalls says:

        True. So let’s take just 3/4-Series, as those make up most of what BMW sells and actually has a MT option. I think the sales were some where around 145,000 for 2014, so BMW likely sold 10,000 with a MT, still a very low number.

    • ///M says:

      From business point of view you are totally right and this scares me, because each company has to earn money. But on the other hand, why are we always talking about money, driving a MT is definitely more fun and driving cars should still be fun, at least on the weekend. The DCT is a perfect drive but the MT in my M-Z4 is the pure driving and fun… and sometimes you need to have fun to be able to earn some money during the week again :)

    • MrWayne10 says:

      I agree as well. Every forum (including some nice posters on here lol), car event etc I go to, people always say the same thing. “If BMW drops the MT then I drop BMW” Once again like this article states, what other luxury brand in BMW’s class are you gonna go to? Audi? MB? Tesla? Lexus? Its a industry wide trend that others have long already adopted. I really hope they keep the MT for as long as they can but it would really only be around for a novelty. (a progressively expensive novelty)

  10. jason bourne says:

    When I bought my BMW, I had to order it, since it’s virtually impossible to find a new BMW with a manual transmission on the dealer’s lot… Sad.

  11. Antonio Denquet Williams says:

    If you can’t drive a stick shift you ain’t a man the people that love autos are bitches don’t be stupid keep the stick shift lazy as a people these days .

  12. Antonio Denquet Williams says:

    I love BMW but don’t do anything stupid like that paddle shifters or not I can take a manual and kick a auto ass same car the stick is better just say your starter stop working on your auto I bet you can start the stick with a little push and pop the clutch please keep the stick

  13. Antonio Denquet Williams says:

    that 70% is lazy don’t know how to drive looking one way dickheads BMW just answer why do that keep the manual

  14. RoninX says:

    I drive a 2006 Z4 coupe with a manual transmission, and I was curious about the availability of the M235i with a manual, so I did an Autotrader search for new 2-series coupes.

    Number of new 2-series coupes within 300 miles of Boston: 107
    Number of new 2-series coupes within 300 miles of Boston with manual transmissions: 0

    That’s right, zero. That’s pretty sad, BMW.

    If you increase the search range to “Any Distance”, you find 464 2-series coupes of which only 16 have manual transmissions.

    • Horatiu B. says:

      Nice.

      So extremely low rate.

    • TheBingoBalls says:

      That’s the thing here. If you really wanted a MT and you couldn’t find one on a lot, you would order one to be built but I’m assuming you don’t want to wait and that’s the problem. You not wanting to wait is a valid reason to buy a AT off the lot but to BMW they’re thinking this customer really didn’t want a MT enough. Dealerships didn’t just decide not to stock MT. I’m sure in the mid-to-late 90’s and maybe early 2000’s, you could find a MT on the lot but the demand for them decreased as did the number of cars with MT ordered. If I analyzed my financials at year end and found that a product was not a good seller, I’m either not stocking it again or getting only a handful. At the end of the day, the demand just isn’t there.

      Alternatively, you go to a MINI dealership and there are MT MINI’s everywhere, it’s not even a problem to find one to buy. People just don’t care for BMW’s with MT anymore.

      • RoninX says:

        The real killer is that you would need to fly hundreds of miles away just to test drive a 2-series with an MT, and most people won’t do that. In my case, the closest 2-series MT to Boston is in Washington, DC. On the other hand, the Boston-DC shuttle flights are cheap, so it is a possibility…

  15. C'mon Man says:

    You forgot to address the most compelling counter-point. That is, in essence, the classic Chicken or Egg argument.

    BMW barely offers manual, and in some situations they already have the parts. The 320i could easily offer a manual option, considering the mechanical similarities to the 328i.

    How is a customer supposed to buy a manual transmission BMW in 2015? Go to the dealer and pick one off the lot in the desired color combo with the desired options? Heck no! You would have to be luckier than… well, just go invest in the lotto if you get the manual BMW of your dreams right off the lot.

    Maybe there are a few standard cars in the next state if you are lucky. Otherwise, it’s going through the custom ordering process, which holds its advantages and disadvantages. Mostly disadvantages if were being honest.

    Test drive? Forget the test drive, you’ve been waiting for this. Anywhere from a week to two, three months depending if it was on the lot somewhere else, or if it was custom ordered.

    It’s a pain, it’s more expensive, and lazy car dealers will push back because they would rather sell you some auto-tragic piece off the lot.

    7% seems like a high take rate given the hoops the customer has to jump through and the lack of a manual option on most BMWs.

  16. Julien says:

    Manual all the way everyday !!!
    Auto is great fun for about a month…
    Personal taste of course !

  17. Julien says:

    Manual all the way everyday !!!
    Auto is great fun for about a month…
    Personal taste of course !

  18. Christopher P. Todd says:

    Perhaps I read the article too quickly (too lazy to go back now) but one of the big reasons they are dumping manuals is emissions. Apparently, automatics are to the point where they are better from an emissions standpoint. Who would have thought it. In any event, I too love my manual and would want to get it on my next car.

  19. […] last week, we touched on the subject of BMW potentially eliminating the manual transmissions in the future. We brought up arguments as a very low take rate – around 7% – and high […]

  20. […] been seeing a lot of ‘Save the manuals’ missives float past on blog pages and social media recently. Having never owned anything but sticks […]

  21. […] been seeing a lot of ‘Save the manuals’ missives float past on blog pages and social media recently. Having never owned anything but sticks […]

  22. […] been seeing a lot of ‘Save the manuals’ missives float past on blog pages and social media recently. Having never owned anything but sticks […]

  23. Jacob says:

    If they ditch the third pedal, they will lose a customer. Simple as that.

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