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BMW M CEO Seems Totally Over Manual Transmissions

Three pedals make for slower, less efficient sports cars, as M boss Frank van Meel would like to remind us.
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BMW has been gradually phasing out manual transmissions in its lineup—even in its storied M sports cars. The rationale is simple for the automaker: Most people don’t want them anyway, they introduce production complications, and they are objectively worse than automatics in many ways. This has led the company to charge extra for the M2’s manual versus the automatic outside of the United States, primarily in the United Kingdom and even the company’s home market of Germany. Listening to the BMW M CEO recently discuss the matter is just depressing.

Speaking to CarThrottle, M boss Frank van Meel said, “The manual is slower and results in a higher fuel consumption [and] sometimes has also a lower top speed, so the manual actually from an engineering standpoint made no real sense anymore.”

Van Meel goes on to say that offering a manual transmission nowadays is just a “heritage” thing. The M2 is, after all, going to be the last BMW M car with a clutch pedal.

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His statements are becoming unusual in the era of enthusiast cars we’re living in. As electrification becomes a seemingly inescapable reality, many automakers have taken to building cars that enthusiasts love—despite any associated production trouble—because we may never see them again. The three-pedaled Cadillac Blackwing twins are the prime example. Keep in mind the third-generation CTS-V, the predecessor to the new CT5-V Blackwing, was automatic only. That decision was reversed despite General Motors engineers understanding that the manual is just not as fast, efficient, or sophisticated as modern autos. It’s a lot more fun, though.

Many could reasonably expect BMW M to be one of the white knights of the manual transmission, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Van Meel said that customers want manuals simply to prove that they can “ride the beast,” which is an odd statement considering that the brand was once defined by the stick shift.

BMW

It must be said that the situation in continental Europe and the U.K. in terms of emissions regulations and the perception of cars is not the same as it is in the U.S. BMW still offers the stick shift here at no extra cost on the M2. The U.S. is the largest market for stick-shift enthusiast cars in the world as well as sports cars. Over in Europe, though, people aren’t so enthusiastic about cars period, and that of course includes decidedly non-utilitarian sports cars.

Brands like Acura, Cadillac, Toyota, Mazda, Ford, and more are proving that there’s still money to be made catering to enthusiasts who want three pedals. BMW used to be a hero of the cause. Now, not so much. Records clinched by a few seconds on the Nurburgring seem more important.

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