Despite CEO’s shade, the head of BMW M Development bought a manual M2

BMW/Uwe Fischer

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.

BMW M2 Zandvoort Blue front three quarter
BMW/Uwe Fischer

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?




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    The Ultimate Marketing Machine? Funny how they did it anyway even though it’s worse. I am for choice. Make it and let the market decide. If no one buys it then I would understand not selling it. Still that thing is no good looking. The previous M2 looked great.

    My bother and I, both in our seventies, have only had manual transmissions in our BMW’s over the years. His 2022 M2 Competition is “over the top’. It harkens back to the 2002’s of yesteryear, although fabulously more potent. My ’01 530i Sport is still fun to drive and easy to maintain (analog). As BMW “drives” into the future, they are losing folks like us with all the complexity and technology. I guess it’s us old fart’s not keeping up!!

    How can anyone be in too much of a hurry to shift their own gears, perhaps speed shift? Where are they going? Far as we’re concerned, anyone with a road, sport, or GT car with automatic is a poser.

    But why of why, Eddy, would a manual transmission “….sometimes also (have) a lower top speed,” unless final drive ratio slightly lower (numerically larger)?

    With 350 million people in the US, 41 million here in California, 8.1 billion globally, it’s understandable why those commuting via car opt for two-pedal go and whoa “driving.” But far as some of us are concerned, anything with an automatic, regardless price, marketing, branding, is a golf cart.

    Su8overdrive, that quote caught my eye, too, and I came to the same conclusion you did. I reached out to BMW for additional comment about what van Meel stated in the Car Throttle interview but did not hear back. The shots taken at manuals are curious at best. At least BMW enthusiasts here don’t have the upcharge for the manual that other markets do.

    Manuals in the Boxster, the 540i and the wife’s MINI, but I also love the PDK in the 911. They are all fun in different ways.

    What’s sporting about an SUV? Really? an Msport SUV? What are these people thinking. I agree with the person above who says anyone without a manual transmission in a sporting car (for me any vehicle) is a poseur. What kind of connection does a driver have when all he has to do is floor the gas pedal and let electronics do the rest? Where’s the skill in flipping a paddle that likely has an electronic override? ho hum…

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