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BMW M Still Committed to Manuals


The last generation BMW M5 (F10) was the beginning of the end for BMW M manuals in the M5. It was offered without a manual around the world but, after relatively high demand, BMW offered a manual in the US and Canada. The current BMW M5 doesn't offer a manual at all, not to mention going AWD. That doesn't bode well for purist fans of the brand since BMW M has clearly thrown crucial traditions of the brand (i.e. RWD and manual) to the curb in the name of performance and/or efficiency. It looks like that isn't the end of all manuals, though, at least not yet.

BMW’s M division boss Frank van Meel told Car and Driver at a press event a couple of months ago that the brand is still committed to manuals. Presumably, he was referring only to the M2 and M3/M4 since all other M cars including the M5 and "SUV" M cars like the X5/X6 M are only offered with automatics now and you can bet that the M6's replacement - the M8 - will be offered with only an automatic. As you may expect, autonomous cars will eventually kill manuals altogether and BMW acknowledges that but until then, they still see manuals in the upcoming generations. There is one very important caveat, though...


Just like Porsche proved with the 911 R - which was basically a manual, less capable, but more raw 991 GT3 - and then after that with the 991.2 GT3, manufacturers will do what customers what. If there is demand, manufacturers will meet it. I think I read that Porsche justified the PDK-only 991 GT3 and GT3 RS by saying the PDK outperforms the manual in every way, which is true, but, ultimately, the reason why manufacturers build or don't build certain cars or options is consumer demand (as long as regulations allow). When buyers wanted manual 911 GT3's, Porsche built them. BMW more or less said the exact same thing; it will build them but only as long as people buy them.

Buyers vote with their wallets. Manual take rates for most cars are very low, with most manufacturers justifying killing manuals by saying take rate was less than 10% or 5%. For the BMW M2? Take rate is a whopping 50%+. More than half buyers of the M2 want it in a manual and BMW is happy to oblige. You have to ask yourself, though, what happens if people stop buying them? You can be sure BMW won't build them anymore. BMW basically said it has no interest in manuals since the automatic is faster and more efficient. So while we can enjoy manuals now and likely for another generation, if demand drops, so does the option. Next time you go buy an M2 or M3, keep that in mind and order it with a manual!

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