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M is for Manual: BMW Performance Division Will Stick With the Stick

We hate to sound like a broken record, primarily because we love records, so we like them to play through without skips. That said, along with vinyl LPs, regular readers will remember there’s another “antiquated” technology we’re still holding on to — the manual transmission.

Fortunately, fans of three-pedal performance cars just got some good news, as BMW M Division chief  Frank van Meel just told our friends at Car & Driver that hot rod M models will still offer a stick, at least for now. Here’s what he told writer Mike Duff:

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,” he said. “Buyers vote with their wallets for manual transmissions. Now, being an engineer, I would say from a rational standpoint that even though the manual gearbox is lighter than an automated gearbox, it uses more fuel and is slower, so it doesn’t really make sense . . .

But from the emotional standpoint, a lot of customers say, ‘I don’t care, I want to have one.’ As long as we have these take rates on M2, and also the M3 and M4, we’re going to offer manuals, because we listen to our customers. Even though as an engineer I’d say we don’t necessarily need one. If demand is so high, then why not fulfill it?

It seems obvious, but it’s important to note that car companies are in business to, you know, make money, which means they aim to sell things that people will buy. So while supercar builders like Ferrari and Lamborghini have both cited performance as the primary reason they’ve switched to lightening-fast dual clutch-gearboxes, it’s worth noting that even when they offered gated shifts, few customers opted for them.

That trend likely sped the move toward paddles, obviously. So getting a stick is the best way you can convince your favorite manufacturer to keep offering them.

At this point, we should also note that your local AutoNation-affiliated BMW dealer is far from the only option if you’re looking to row your own. Back in March, we compiled a list of five fun stick-shift cars, and since then, we’ve gotten to test a few more, including the Mustang EcoBoost, the Audi A4, and the Subaru WRX.

If you really want to save the manuals, you know what to do!

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