BMWM to Eliminate Manual Transmissions from – What Does it Mean for MINI?

According to our sister site BimmerFile, BMW is moving to eliminate manual transmissions (and DCTs) from all its products in the next “handful of years”. You can read more at BF but suffice to say it’s a product the marketplace (i.e. what people want) and the complexity of meeting more stringent environmental standards.

According to sources, manual take rates have dropped on the M3 and M4. The E90 M3 for instance had a 53% manual transmission take rate compared to under 20% for the current M3 sedan. The convertible is even more stark. The E83 M3 convertible had about a 50% manual take rate. That has fallen off a cliff in the new M4 drop top with under 10% opting for the no cost manual.

What does this mean for MINI? We know that MINI has committed to having manuals in all of its cars for quite a while now. However that is changing with the new Countryman Hybrid and certainly will change with the new electric MINI scheduled for release in 2019.

But the bigger question is what does this mean for the MINIs we all know and love? If BMW M sees the death of the manual coming in roughly 5-6 years – does MINI as well? The short answer is no. BMW M is dealing with a couple things that MINI is not. For one outright speed is critical to those cars (for better or worse). Manuals are not the fast option and haven’t been for some time. Secondly manuals and even DCTs struggle to be good at dealing with more than 500 hp without being clunky (or extremely expensive). These are issues MINI doesn’t have. Additionally MINIs brand position is directly aligned to what manuals offer.

While we believe MINI will slowly begin to limit manuals to certain models in the next 5-6 years, we don’t see the manual going away from the brand entirely any time soon.

  • Kevin Bartlett

    You could see this coming, many models already didn’t offer a manual. I think this happens everywhere eventually, but not for quite a while. BMW claims speed required for M cars rules out manuals, I’m not sure how fast you want to go, or on what roads you will drive that fast on. The old saying that its better to drive a slow car fast then a fast car slow has never rang truer. The M2 is the best car to drive on real roads, because its rewarding not because its the fastest M car (which it clearly isn’t).

    • ulrichd

      I don’t agree. In every day driving on real roads I found my 2003 Cooper S more satisfying than my 00 MCoupe. Sure, by the numbers the Coupe would kill the S all day long but you would be in jail territory after just a few burst of speed. Also when driving fast in a BMW you’re just another a-hole in a bimmer, but in a MINI it’s somehow different.

      • Kevin Bartlett

        I was saying the M2 is the best M car (judging it only against the other M cars), for many of the reasons others have said and I think you are agreeing with….

        However, your other point, about how a BMW driver is viewed differently than a MINI driver is part of the reason I switched back to a MINI from a BMW so its kind of a shame the world treats us on perception first and foremost as I’m the same person driving in the same way (quite politely driving I might add). In the meantime I actually regret ever letting go of my 04 Cooper S JCW as I think it was the most enjoyable car to drive. My new F54 JCW is a great car but on fun to drive my old R53 still has it beat in my heart.

  • CA-MINI

    Depressing. The full rewarding driving experience includes rowing your own gears. I certainly hope MINI hands on to it’s manual offerings for some time. I know manuals are clearly a minority option especially in the US but people who choose manuals are very devoted to driving that way and the manual option plays a big role in deciding to buy a particular vehicle. MINI keeping the manual, may give it more uniqueness and add some refugee sales from other marques who abandon the manual. Keep the stick!

  • Johnny Boots

    Take rate for manuals is really high for mini, I think it’ll be a long time before they disappear. I’m more worried about the shift of the no-cost manual becoming the $1500 option, while the autos move to no-cost. Glad I got my F54 jcw order in with a manual.

    • Agree with that. BTW our long term press car came from MINI today. An F54 JCW… auto. I have to say I love the execution. It’s not what I would have chose personally but it’s damn impressive.

      • Johnny Boots

        I’ve been checking the site out to daily to see when that bad boy arrived.

        I ordered mine thunder grey/white (have white wheels on order) with premium and tech packages. I wanted a fun company car and I think this is it.

  • WANDERLUST srt

    Ultimately fuel efficiency and the inclusion of electric motors into transmissions themselves to regenerate energy and also to increase efficiency (battery packs get lighter and lighter) will put the nail in the manual coffin. The other thing is the modern auto’s are just as fast as the dual clutches with less compromise. You will still be able to select a gear, just no clutch.

  • Don Hopings

    I wonder if the data they used excluded dealer orders? The only valid data would be cars ordered by customers.

  • First off, I’m a manual guy all the way. That said, the driving experience in modern automatics is better in some ways, worse in others.

    It’s better in that one can have both hands on the wheel while downshifting while trail-braking into really technical turns. Steering control is much improved. It’s better in that one can have power to the wheels with less interruptions on corner exit, post apex, and keep the suspension more settled.

    But it’s worse not from a driving dynamic point, but more from an emotional level. One feels that one is more in command of the machine by actually moving the levers. Even though in cars like the MINI, one is using cables to move the linkage as opposed to actually moving gears like in older manual boxes where the shifter actually moved the gear selector levers, but whatever, one feels more connected to the mechanicals in a true manual car.

    All that said, those of us that love the manual box are a dying breed. It’s harder to learn, it’s less efficient, and it’s slower to change gears. Laziness will mean many will never bother to learn to shift properly (but I’m not giving up, my 12 year old daughter has already had her first lesson in clutch driving!) Emissions will continue pressure to offer less manuals, and real racers want fast and will use whatever tech gets there, so racing will relegate the manual to the trash heap. All that’s left is the Transmission Luddites like me! And we will lose the battle. It’s not an if, it’s a when.

    So, eventually, to get a manual, we’ll have to buy used. Sucks, but there you have it.