Rowing Gears: 6% of 5 Series Buyers Do It

The headline sums up the way things have gone. According to Inside Line only six percent of all 2011 F10 5 Series models that have been delivered in the US are equipped with a third pedal. That is not all that surprising considering the progress of automatics over the years and the softening of the American driver.

Ever take a walk through your local Starbucks or Mega-mall parking lot and glance inside the vehicles parked? The limited amount of stick-shifts is alarming even outside the BMW brand. Consumers pay for what they want, they speak loudest with their wallets and what this all shows is that greater than 90% of people buying cars in the US don ‘t want to shift but rather allow the car to it by itself. Most brands have taken the choice away and no longer bother to offer buyers anything but a slush box. BMW has its ear to the ground and hears us enthusiasts clamoring as being in favor of choice.

What we know is that the ZF automatic transmissions BMW uses in the newest models offers 8 speeds for greater efficiency, can skip shift gears and with the sport automatic versions (software and paddles) can nearly match the shift times of a full on Dual Clutch. That being said, we contend that on the slow pothole ridden roads of the US we still crave connectivity to something greater than bumps and the manual transmission gives us that.

This take rate begs the question as to whether the new ///M5 will be offered with a manual; the outgoing E60 was only offered in a manual stateside. Could we see a paradigm shift where the manual is no longer a no cost option but one that garners a price increase of the standard automatic? Anything is possible when economies of scale and the cost of stocking replacement parts is taking into consideration.

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  • InsaneFreak

    Is the small number of BMW manuals being sold completely due to consumer demand or because that’s the way dealers order cars? I wanted to buy a manual 335i and my dealer couldn’t find one anyplace for me.

  • Babak

    If it was my guess, I’d say definitely consumer demand. No dealer in their right mind would order a 6MT F10. I’m all for manual trannies, but I’ve seen at least 11 F10 deliveries at my dealer, and all have been AT. Only one has been the Sport Auto. Point is, most consumer aren’t enthusiasts, and dealers order cars for the masses.

  • rkw

    Do you have any information for the percentage on other models of BMW?

  • Herr26

    I was at an M Training Day in Miramas recently and with the M5 all three examples available for evaluation were equipped with the upgraded M-DCT , no manual was shown.

  • Sam

    Most BMW owners buy the brand because of status symbol it carries. They really could care less about the performance of the car. Hopefully though, BMW will keep the small percentage of enthusiasts happy by continuing to offer manual transmissions.

  • Bob

    Dealers would order 100% 6 speed manual if that was what customers bought. But most customers want automatic so all members of the family can drive the car. 20 years ago about 20% of the market was 5 speed m.

  • Erik

    My wifes car is one of those 6%, and it’s a wagon (535xiT). I guess BMW NA doesn’t care about us anymore. No wagon and no manual in the GT. Our car goes back on lease at the end of the year, and after driving every new BMW and a few other makes, we are either going to buy the wagon or get the MINI Countryman. We know the Countryman isn’t really competitive to the 5, but it just looks like so much fun, and that’s whats missing in most modern BMWs.

  • Micah

    I attribute the (pending) demise of the manual in the NA market largely to fat lazy American drivers who want to guzzle their 500-calorie Frappuccinos while texting on their cell phones, listening to directions from their in-dash sat nav simultaneously with some bloviating talking head on their XM radio…all while commuting to work. Thus no manual even available in the X3, perhaps the X1, the 5-series GT, and many more future BMWs.

    How about focusing on driving instead?

  • goat

    Sadly, in USA / Canada even MINIs are increasingly being sold with automatics, so not surprising that the large luxury-oriented BMW 5 is rarely seen “in the wild” in stick shift form.

    I always saw this as a key differentiator between the euro cars in Canada: Mercedes offered only autoboxes, while BMW and Audi catered to driving enthusiasts and offered choice of autobox (poor saps) and for those who actually like to drive, manuals.

    Kudos to those who continue to understand the joy of driving a manual transmission in a road car, and order theirs accordingly! The take rate may be low, but I for one am glad BMW is still offering manual transmissions in most of their cars.

  • A

    I read somewhere that if you left a car with manual transmission in a parking with the keys in the ignition, it would still be there the next day! Car thieves even don’t want manual transmissions.

    I’m just glad BMW at least offer the option. You may to custom order the car but at least it’s possible.

  • Ryan T

    I’ve been driving manual for 3 years/3 months on my MINI Cooper S and I’m proud to say that I am glad I didn’t get the automatic. It took me about 2 weeks to get the gist of it and I will never forget the day I drove to work, by myself (had a friend in the car instructing me) in my Cooper. I only stalled twice that one day behind a light! Automatic takes the joy out of driving and will never get an automatic.

  • Adam

    I learned to drive on a manual, even at only 20 years of age I can appreciate the feel a manual trans gives the driver, not to mention more control. But this is our over weight America and no one, not even truck drivers wants to put in any work or attention while driving. I’ve owned an E39 540i M-sport automatic and I really wish it had been a manual for one very good reason… Cost of replacement parts, I was expected to fork over $8100 for a new gearbox then it failed in my car, if it had been manual I’d be replacing a clutch or a flywheel not the whole unit. One more example of the automatic weakness.

  • Ben

    I have been fortunate to only have had manual gearboxes as an option growing up. Six cars later, I still drive and prefer cars with a manual gearbox.

  • Que

    one of the reasons why I considered the E39 5 series, cause it was the only one offered with a manual in it’s class. Keep it manual BMW!

  • Robert

    One of the reasons, after waiting for a manual diesel for two years to no avail, that I’m moving to another vehicle, is precisely the disconnect between what is offered in the German market and is offered here. And no way of getting any of the six diesel manual styles through an importer. BMW is purposely defining the market at least in this category – sadly.