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Manual transmissions in M cars will fade away, BMW boss predicts

| Photo: Sébastien D'Amour
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Josée Paquet

BMW M CEO Frank van Meel doesn't think manual transmissions have a bright future across the industry. While these gearboxes have long been synonymous with greater fuel economy and driving excitement, modern automatic transmissions and dual-clutch units have caught up in terms of both performance and efficiency.

Is the end near for manual BMW M cars? 
“From a technical standpoint, the future doesn’t look bright for manual gearboxes. The DCT and auto ’boxes are faster and they have better fuel consumption,” he told Autocar.

Frank van Meel also claims that 600 horsepower is the current limit of an M car’s capability.

“We’re at the limit. If you go on adding more horsepower and torque, it’d probably be over the limits,” he acknowleged.

On the other hand, van Meel realizes that BMW still has a big fan community for manuals, so the German automaker is probably not going to take away something the customer wants to have, at least not in the near future.

The decline of manual transmissions is nothing new
Manual gearboxes are a dying breed, as our very own Miranda Lightstone wrote in 2013. Most automakers now prefer automatics, CVTs, and dual-clutch boxes because of their recent gains in performance and fuel efficiency.

These days, you'll only find a clutch in a limited number of entry-level models and sportier cars. The 2015 Ford Mustang still comes standard with a manual transmission, but for how long?

Automatic cars also far outnumber manual cars in dealer lots, so customers have a harder time test driving a model with a stick, and given that performance levels are similar, why would they bother waiting for one? 

How long do you think manual transmissions will last? Will they actually join the dodo or somehow find a way to remain forever relevant?

Josée Paquet
Josée Paquet
Automotive expert