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by Jay Traugott
Say it ain't so, Joe...
It's no secret that a majority of American (and now European) new car buyers prefer an automatic transmission over a manual. In fact, many new drivers simply never learn how to change their own gears because there's simply no one to teach them. It's both sad and a clear sign of the times. While enthusiasts still prefer three pedals, automakers have taken note that automatics are the preferred choice. And it gets worse.
According to a recent report from Inside Line, a BMW official is claiming that the next-generation M5 will not even be engineered to handle a manual. The reason is that, according to M division head of engineering Albert Biermann, "Last year, maybe 15-20 percent of our M5s in the U.S. were manuals and maybe this year it will be 15 percent. It's declining. The trouble is that nobody wants it in Europe or anywhere else, so this will be the last time we do it, even for the hard-core U.S. buyers." Even the next M6 won't have a manual option and both cars will be offered solely with the seven-speed dual-clutch.
The about to go on sale M6 coupe and convertible will offer a manual as a no-cost option (just like in the M5), but it's for the U.S. market only. Fortunately, there is still one bright note here: the M3, according to Biermann, "needs to have a stick shift. It will always have a stick shift."