I just recently gave back a BMW M240i press loaner (review coming soon!) with a six-speed manual. Little did I know that it would be the last of its kind. As it turns out, BMW is planning on scrapping the manual transmission option for the 2 Series entirely, in North America.
The reason for BMW killing off the manual in its most dynamic model is because the brand is sort of trimming some fat. At the moment, there are quite a lot of model variants, engines and options that BMW has on offer that don’t do very well. These different options are costing BMW money, money that it could be spending on R&D for its electric future. According to BMW’s Chief Finance Officer, BMW needs to cut back on several different options, including engines, transmissions and even things like steering wheels. Unfortunately, the manual transmission in the 2 Series will be one of those cuts.
Now, fans will cry out “blasphemy” for BMW ridding the three-pedal ‘box in the 2 Series for R&D for electric cars. And, to be honest, it’s hard to blame them, as the 2 Series was one of the last great-driving BMWs and its manual transmission was a huge part of that. However, the blame isn’t with BMW but us as customers. Enthusiasts aren’t talking with their wallets, unfortunately. A lot of the reasoning behind that is the fact that most enthusiasts can only afford pre-owned BMWs and aren’t buying new. The customers buying brand-new Bimmers want automatic gearboxes. Because of that, the take-rate is too low for BMW to continue selling manuals, while still being able to invest in the future of mobility.
Having just spent a week driving a manually-equipped 2 Series, I can honestly say that this saddens me. But it’s not entirely unexpected. The 2 Series was the only rival in its segment that even offered a manual transmission, as customers in that segment aren’t buying them. Both the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class are automatic-only in North America, so it’s not that surprising that the 2 Series would eventually follow suit.
What’s worrisome is that the 3 Series and 4 Series could be next. From reading forums and comments, their manual transmissions are a big reason as to why a lot of enthusiasts buy them over rivals. There are many buyers who say “I wanted a Jaguar XE because I thought it drove better but the 3 Series was the only car with a manual so I bought that”, or something similar. While those customers aren’t in the majority and likely aren’t enough to keep it around in the future, they prove that there is a population of fans that will be seriously disappointed by this news.