BMW, like a number of other automakers, is currently in a holding pattern with respect to the manual transmission. Just last year, we heard from an M Division executive who said the manual could be on its way out. Now we have word that BMW will continue to #GiveAShift for at least another generation of its performance-focused products.
In a report published Friday by Car and Driver, BMW M Division boss Frank van Meel confirmed that a manual transmission will be available for the next cycle of M-badged vehicles. Ultimately, however, van Meel noted it will fade into the sunset with the coming rise of autonomy. “The bad news is that if we one day have autonomous cars, then the manual cannot work anymore. So that would be, let’s say, the natural end. But that’s still some time away,” van Meel said.
The manual gearbox remains a fading piece of glory for enthusiasts and sports car manufacturers alike. Some are ready to see it shuffle off into an automotive past, while others grab hold of the shift lever with no plans of relaxing their grip anytime soon. It's nearly a badge of honor these days to buy a car with a transmission you have to shift manually.
For BMW buyers, that's a badge many are eager to wear. The take rate for manual gearboxes on BMW's sportiest cars is high enough that the decision makers can continue to green light the option on the order form. Per van Meel, "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."
Enough people are telling BMW they still want manual transmissions as an option, and they're doing it the proper way: with their wallets. When an automaker removes the manual option from a given vehicle, it's typically because not enough people buy it. That makes it an easy decision to discontinue a money loser and move on.
So, for those looking to keep the manual transmission around as long as possible, there's one way to do it: buy cars with manuals. Spend the money and automakers will listen.