The manual transmission is too popular to ditch

BMW, like a number of other automakers, is currently in a holding pattern with respect to the manual transmission. It wasn’t too long ago that the head of its M division, Frank van Meel, said the manual could be on its way out. Now he’s keen to keep the transmission around for as long as possible, even though he acknowledges its shortcomings.

“From a technical viewpoint, there’s little reason to save it,” he told Autocar in an interview published last week. “It’s heavier, it’s slower and you get worse fuel consumption than the alternative, but the customer and the fanbase really love the manual.”

In the interview, van Meel pointed out that half the orders for the redesigned M2 due to be revealed in October were for manual-equipped cars, with the U.S. being the biggest market. The new M2 is confirmed to be coming with the choice of a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic.

The BMW M boss has previously said that the arrival of self-driving cars will mean the end of the manual transmission but that such a date is still some time away. The end date could come sooner though, as automakers are unlikely to retain the manual as they shift their lineups to electric vehicles around the end of the current decade.

Thus the manual remains a fading piece of glory for enthusiasts and performance car manufacturers alike. Some are ready to see it shuffle off into an automotive past, while others grab hold of the shift lever with no plans of relaxing their grip anytime soon. It’s nearly a badge of honor these days to buy a car with a stick. It also has the added benefit of being a theft deterrent.