The US market might just be its last hope.
There appears to be a spot of confusion regarding BMW's future use of manual transmissions. Speaking with Car and Driver at Geneva earlier this month, BMW's head of sales and marketing Ian Robertson admitted the manual transmission is literally dead, at least for BMW. And with the sole exception of some (but not all) future M models, it'll no longer be offered – even in the US. Thing is, we spoke with M boss Frank Van Meel at Detroit last January and asked him literally the same question.
His response: "We will continue to offer a manual in the 2, 3, and 4 Series for the foreseeable future. The same goes for the M versions of those models." Now, here's Robertson's contradictory statement to Car and Driver regarding the 3 Series: "Across the world, virtually all of our 3 series (models) and above already have automatic transmissions. The US is predominantly auto, and more and more of Europe is as well. We will certainly see fewer and fewer manual transmissions being offered." Read between the lines, and it's sounding pretty unlikely the next-gen 3 Series, due in just a couple years' time, will offer a manual. However, this won't apply to the next M3 and M4, Robertson clarified.
"In the M segment, purists still love the stick shift, and we will continue to cater for that. Whether we offer it in every model remains to be seen." So, Van Meel says manuals will still be offered in the (non-M) 3 Series, while Robertson hints that's not happening. Unfortunately, we're more inclined to believe Robertson on this one. He's the chief sales and marketing guy, after all, while Van Meel handles the more niche-oriented M brand. The manual transmission for non-performance cars, is living on borrowed time.