A high-ranking BMW executive says the last vehicle from the Munich-based brand to be built with a manual transmission will be the next-generation M4.
Klaus Fröhlich, member of the BMW board responsible for development, told Road and Track that while the manual gearbox was certainly under threat, it would still be offered in the next M4.
“Honestly, the pure engineering answer is, you're much faster with paddles and an automatic transmission," Fröhlich told the US-based publication.
“They're very precise and sporty. Especially on the Nürburgring, you are much better in control when you're not taking one hand away .
“I think, in the overall portfolio, manuals will disappear. But I think M4 should be the fortress of manual. So the last manual transmission which will die, it should die in an M4, as late as possible. That's my view," he said.
The 58-year-old promised the manual would live on with the upcoming M4.
"I think it should survive in the next generation of M4. The successors are all in the pipeline. And so my promise is, yes, there will be a manual in the successor to M4."
Fröhlich went on to explain that the lack of demand for manual transmissions would make it difficult to justify investing in the development of new units.
"Honestly, you have a problem with manuals. Because we have these turbocharged engines with 600 N.m of torque, to develop such a high-torque manual transmission for such a small volume isn't profitable at all.
“So I tried to prolong the lifetime of the manuals, but we can't invest in developing a new manual transmission. No transmission partner will do that with us. So we are evolving our existing manuals as long as possible," he revealed.
Fröhlich furthermore let slip the next M3 and M4 would be offered with the option of all-wheel drive, which lines up with an earlier rumour. Still, he added “there is still a big market for pure rear-wheel drive”, describing the M4 as “our icon”.
"This car will be rear-wheel drive. But we will have an all-wheel drive derivative too."
Of course, the M4 range in South Africa no longer includes the option of a stick-shift, with that derivative having left the local line-up back in early 2017. The F80-generation M3, meanwhile, recently disappeared from BMW SA's range.