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BMW M: The Manual Gearbox Is Popular and Should Remain

The decline of the sedan format over the past two decades has been accompanied by a similar decline of another hallowed automotive feature: The manual transmission. It too is becoming an increasingly rare presence in product offerings.

True, fewer and fewer vehicle buyers are asking for it. It's also true that many manufacturers are offering fewer manual-transmission options. It's a chicken-and-egg phenomenon: less is being offered because it's less popular, and it's becoming less popular because it's being offered less.

Today's technology means that the manual transmission does offer less performance than before, whether it's for acceleration or fuel consumption.

This, in part, has led many to predict the disappearance of the stick shift. But they may be guilty of filing to take into account the passion of a significant number of buyers who still want to drive vehicles equipped with three pedals.

Don’t count the folks at BMW's M division among the doubters. Not that long ago, the head of the division, Frank van Meel, said that this type of transmission was on the verge of disappearing. Now, he wants to keep it around as long as possible, even as he recognizes its shortcomings.

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In an interview with Autocar, he said that technically, there's not really a good reason to keep it in the catalog. However, buyers of M vehicles want it. As proof, half of the orders to date for the new M2, which is set to debut next fall, are for versions with a manual gearbox.

That unit has six speeds, while the automatic that is offered comes with eight.

Of course, with electrification, this type of transmission is on borrowed time, but before predicting that there will never be another one, let's not forget that several companies and some manufacturers are working (or have worked) on a form of manual transmission for electric vehicles. The feel will never be the same, we agree, but to make driving more engaging, who knows, we might see some models equipped with this technology in the future.

It all depends on demand, of course... and supply.