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BMW will kill all the fun to increase electric car R&D efforts

So much for saving the manuals.

2017 BMW 330e
Wayne Cunningham/Roadshow

BMW offers a crapload of variety, whether it's engines, transmissions or interior trims. But those choices might be pared down in the future to shift some money toward future planning.

BMW plans to streamline its equipment offerings in order to offset high research and development costs, Reuters reports, citing remarks from BMW CFO Nicolas Peter. The high R&D costs are related to electric and autonomous vehicles, as BMW prepares for a future thick with both.

The closest thing BMW has to an all-electric 3 Series right now is the plug-in-hybrid 330e.

Wayne Cunningham/Roadshow

Peter referred to his company having "over 100 steering wheels on offer," but the herd culling won't stop with steering wheels. It will also reduce the number of vehicles available with manual transmissions, including the US-spec 2 Series coupe and the European-spec 5 Series diesel. The number of engine variants will also be reduced.

Developing cars -- especially electric ones, especially in a hurry -- is not cheap. According to Reuters, China's increased pressure on EV quotas has sent some manufacturers scrambling to pick up the development pace. Margins are also a problem, because EVs are expensive to develop and sell, meaning the return on each sale isn't at the same level as gas or diesel cars.

There are rumors that BMW will develop an all-electric version of its compact 3 Series sedan, one of the vehicles likely contributing to this R&D push. At the moment, the 3 Series only features a plug-in hybrid variant, with the i3 city car remaining its sole all-electric offering. BMW also promised to get a SAE Level 4 car on the streets in the coming years, and we were lucky enough to take a spin in one of its development units.

Sales are up for BMW in the markets where it matters most, but it's not enough to cover the bump in R&D costs. BMW spent about 5.5 percent of its revenue on research and development in 2016, and Peter remarked that the company will continue to spend at or above that level for at least the next two or three years.