Despite CEO’s shade, the head of BMW M Development bought a manual M2
Last spring, I found myself sitting in the Palace Restaurant and Saloon in Prescott, Arizona, a haunt of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp before they headed to Tombstone. Across the table from me was Dirk Häcker, Head of Development for BMW M.
I’d just emerged from a couple hours behind the wheel of the new XM SUV, BMW’s clear assertion of where the M brand is headed. Naturally, I was eager to talk about the other vehicle on the test drive, BMW M’s spiritual torch-bearer, the new M2.
Häcker’s eyes lit up. The man, who’s spent decades with BMW and is an eight-year veteran of the M division immediately shared that when he got home, he was taking delivery of an M2 in Zandvoort Blue. With a manual, of course—Häcker is a driver of the old school as much as he is an engineer. Respect.
His boss, CEO of BMW M Frank van Meel, had a bit of a different take on manuals in a recent interview with CarThrottle in the U.K.: “we had a lot of customers that said, well, I want to ride the beast and I want to show that I can do that and I need a manual transmission.” Shots fired.
The quip was van Meel’s response to a question as to why BMW elected to charge U.K. consumers for the manual transmission rather than the more complex, and typically more costly, automatic. “The manual is slower and results in a higher fuel consumption [and] sometimes has also a lower top speed,” he said, “so the manual actually from an engineering standpoint made no real sense anymore.” Additional production complexity of having to produce two transmissions also plays a role, said CarThrottle. And, for BMW, van Meel added, “it’s more like a heritage thing.”
These words are another reminder of how the brand’s reputation as Ultimate Driving Machine has evolved. Evidently, despite the reduction in raw performance, a strong portion of American M2 buyers, others across the globe, and even van Meel’s top engineer are very much into “heritage.” Who wouldn’t want to “ride the beast,” anyway?