BMW kicked off 2018 by announcing an assortment of different models will now come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear that BMW M will be following suit.
Speaking with Car and Driver, BMW M President Frank van Meel said manual transmissions are no longer rational as they are slower and use more fuel than their automatic counterparts. As a result, they don’t “really make sense” any more.
Despite this dire sounding statement, van Meel said most customers don’t care about the downsides and they simply want a manual gearbox. As he explained, “Buyers vote with their wallets for manual transmissions.”
Given the support, BMW doesn’t have any plans to do away with stick shifts on models such as the M2, M3 or M4. However, van Meel left the door for change in the future as he hinted everything depends on the take rate. If demand drops, manual transmissions could go away but that’s not the case right now.
Unfortunately, the clock could already be ticking as van Meel suggested the manual transmission will reach its “natural end” when autonomous vehicles become mainstream. A number of companies are working on fully-autonomous technology, but consumer models are still a long way off. Even when they do arrive, it’s unlikely that driving enthusiasts will throw in the towel and call it a day.
While BMW M appears to ready to stand by the manual transmission, it’s likely that the number of M models offered exclusively with an automatic transmission will grow. Both the X3 M and X4 M are slated to be automatic-only and they will join other automatic models such as the X5 M and X6 M.