The MINI manual transmission is dead. Well almost dead. With February production, the manual will be forever gone from the MINI line-up. We exclusively reported on its demise early last year and MINI confirmed the news this past September. And then a strange thing happened. The manual became as popular as it ever has been.
Awhile we don’t have global data we do have official numbers from North America. According to MINI USA, the manual take rate in the F56 Cooper JCW is currently at 54%. That’s one of the highest number MINI USA has seen since the introduction of the automatic in the JCW. The Cooper S take rate has also shot up to 22% – the highest seen in many years. Even the Cooper has seen a spike from the single digits to an 11% take-rate.
In general that’s the highest take-rate we’ve seen since the R50/R53 years. The big question is why? Obviously it has a lot to do with MINI fans grabbing the last of the manual before they cease production at the end of February. However we also can’t help but wonder if it’s a bit of backlash connected to the rise of electrification, automatic driving aides and the digitalization of the driving experience.
Why Is MINI Killing The Manual?
Why would MINI eliminate manuals despite the fact that the F66 (the replacement of for the F56) is mechanically identical and could easily carry over the current Getrag 6 speed? It’s likely about simplifying drivetrains components and cutting costs within manufacturing. And for Europe (where CO2 targets are much more stringent) the manual is slightly dirtier when using WLTP testing procedures.
The manual isn’t necessarily dirtier than the auto. However the way cars are tested for CO2 emissions makes the manual particularly vulnerable. Automakers can tightly control C02 emissions with an auto because there’s so much control to be had with software. The very nature of a manual is that the driver has control and thus there are more variables at play during testing – almost a limitless number. Some of those variables produce higher C02 emissions in testing – despite the fact that a manual is often not any more dirty than an automatic MINI. This is forcing European automakers hands and causing many to eliminate the option.
While the F66 may be very closely related to the F56 mechanically, the interior will likely be a 1:1 copy of the electric J01 MINI Cooper thus will have no space for the manual gear lever. It may like something that could be overcome with some minimal design changes but the cost of having different layouts while producing enough scale (and in enough markets) to make it financially viable was likely too much for MINI to solve. And let’s not even get into the time and money that would be spent to test, validate and federalize a manual option for the US.
While the manual take rates are almost as high as they’ve ever been, it’s a bittersweet moment as MINI moves away from the purest form of driver engagement offered in a car.