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MINI will teach people how to drive its new cars since almost nobody knows how

Why MINI needed to open up a driving school for its cars

The manual transmission used to be ubiquitous. Whether consumers were trying to save money or because they were looking for a more engaging car to drive, manual transmissions used to be more readily available. Now automakers only offer manuals on a few trims with expensive packages or high-end sports cars, making them hard to find. People really don’t want to drive cars with a manual gearbox these days, and who can blame them? A real-life person had a real-life conversation with me where they said they purchased a Tesla because they didn’t want to drive anymore. Now, more than ever, there’s a good chance the manual transmission will die because people aren’t interested in them.

In an attempt to save the manual transmission, MINI has brought back the manual gearbox on select Cooper Hardtop models. Furthermore, the British brand is launching a new driving school to teach people how to drive cars with a manual transmission. Yes, it’s seriously gotten to the point where an automaker has to have a manual driving school to get people interested in buying cars with a manual transmission. It almost sounds like an SNL skit, but this is very real. 

Close up of manual transmission in a Mini Hardtop from the passenger side.

The new MINI Manual Driving School will be held at the BMW Performance Center in Thermal, California. Attendees don’t have to own a MINI to attend the school, but it will cost an undisclosed amount of money and take an unknown amount of time. MINI’s class will include some time in a classroom, as well as on the track with drivers having to pass a driving test on a timed course as a final exam. MINI doesn’t have information on how long the school will be or how much it will cost. 

This isn’t the first or only class drivers can attend if they’re interested in learning about driving a car with a manual transmission. In Southern California, people can attend Stick Shift Driving Academy or go through Hagerty and complete their manual driving school. Where MINI’s school stands out is that it’s to be the first from a major automaker.

Clearly, the days of learning from a friend or a parent — like I did — are long gone. With the rise of electric vehicles, the expansion of quick-shifting dual-clutch transmissions, and the push to improve fuel economy, which usually means upgrading an automatic transmission, we don’t expect a lot of people to attend MINI’s driving school. At least the British brand is trying to do something to keep the manual transmission alive. In the old ways were better kind of way, we’re sad that this is even a thing. 

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