By on October 6, 2020

As the manual transmission gradually joins the wheel-mounted throttle lever in the automotive history trash bin, we’ve been wondering which manufacture would be the next to take a bold stance against be-clutched vehicles. Today we have our answer, thanks to a tweet explaining the brand’s research boss had indicated Mercedes-Benz doesn’t have room for manuals in its current restructuring program.

“The head of @MercedesBenz’s R&D operations, Markus Schaefer, has confirmed the company will ‘eliminate manual transmissions’ as part of cost-cutting initiatives that will also see a ‘substantial reduction in platforms’ and a ‘very dramatic reduction in combustion engines,'” automotive journalist Greg Kable explained via social media on Tuesday.

Considering yours truly hasn’t seen a manual Mercedes in the wild manufactured after 2002, this news probably isn’t knocking anyone out of their chair. In fact, the company hasn’t been selling manual optioned cars in the United States for several years.

Trying to consolidate models onto fewer platforms isn’t much of a shocker either. Mercedes-Benz actually opened the year by stating that it would be reducing the number of cars, engines, and platforms available to customers to ensure it had enough money to transition into an electric automotive brand. “We are reviewing our product portfolio, especially as we announced so many pure EVs,” Schafer said in March. “Knowing the complexity after the growth in the last couple of years means we are definitely reviewing our current lineup. The idea is to streamline  taking car variants out, but also platforms, powertrains, and components.”

Schafer said that, while Daimler’s plan was not to eliminate V8 and V12 engines from the Mercedes lineup, the company would ultimately have to utilize four-cylinder engines at a much higher frequency  especially if its ultimate goal is to prioritize EV sales moving forward. Meanwhile, the number of platforms the company uses should shrink immensely, leaving a few bases upon which to build the majority of its vehicles from. While this will undoubtedly save the brand a mint that can be reinvested into costly EV development, it kind of makes it sound like the next generation of internal combustion cars are going to be virtually identical to each other with tepid powertrain and sizing options being the only items setting them apart.

[Image: Franz12/Shutterstock]

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27 Comments on “Mercedes-Benz Abandons Manual Transmission, Sticks With Streamlining...”


  • avatar
    tomLU86

    While I tip my hat to those of you MT afficionados who actually have the courage of your convictions (there are pitifully few, that’s why we have so few manuals, and partly why cars in general are so boring–albeit they are all boring at a uniformly high level), one bright spot is that, at this rate, a manual trans will be the best theft deterrent. They’ll have to tow your car.

    And if you have a column mounted shifter on that old pick-up or Mercedes 250 (who drives Peugeots now?) or Dodge Dart…well, the younger thieves might spend a lot of time looking for the PRND21 indicator…

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      If the goals are:
      – better fuel economy
      – quicker acceleration
      – lower cost
      – high reliability

      Then the only choice today is an automatic. The MT lost those advantages long ago.

      As for theft, I leave my doors unlocked most of the time. I’d rather the thieves just open the door and take what they want, instead of breaking the window.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        My 18 year old daughter had been pestering me to teach her how to drive a stick. We didn’t have one, so I found a Mzda MX-5 on Turo and rented it for a few days. She picked it up quite quickly and was fairly proficient after a few drives.

        I drove sticks pretty much solidly from age 16 until age 56, when I went PHEV. Jumping back into a stick was no effort, but I didn’t find it all that compelling either. To a certain extent, I felt like I was micromanaging the drivetrain when the car could have done a better job without my intervention. I’ve done a few supercar drives, and rented Mustangs and Camaros for track days, and in all cases the cars did a brilliant job of managing the drivetrain. Going back to Chris Tonn’s Corvette review, he had pretty much the same experience driving the Corvette, playing with the self shifting option until coming to the realization that the car can do a better job.

      • 0 avatar
        deanst

        Yeah, it’s totally fake news that 99.9% of complaints around transmissions are about spontaneously combusting CVT transmissions and every 8, 9 or 10 speed automatic recently introduced by pretty much every manufacturer. I will admit that for those who must get to 60 mph in under 6 seconds, autos might have an advantage.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Irrelevant here. When’s the last time you could buy a Benz in North America with a manual?

        Anyway, I disagree with SCE to AUX on the goals. A MT can do all those things just as well in the right hands, except on the extreme edge of performance where you have to go through a routine to use launch control for an advantage in acceleration.

        The EPA ratings are biased against manual transmissions, so I hope he’s not using those to compare. They report the fuel economy you’d get if you’re the type of person to take 18 seconds to slowly accelerate to 3500 rpm in first gear before shifting.

        I’d bet that it costs less to manufacture a MT than the equivalent AT, and I’d also put my money on my clutch alone outlasting the typical CVT.

        There are valid reasons the MT is dying, but let’s not get carried away here.

      • 0 avatar
        Imagefont

        Manual transmissions are far more reliable. Most will go a million miles with just lube changes and a clutch every 250k. There is no automatic that will last that long. None.

        • 0 avatar
          tomLU86

          Not only are manual transmissions more reliable, they cost less to make.

          Some automatics may do better on the EPA test cycle. But they can be programmed to shift in such a way to optimizie TEST CYCLE results.

          It’s a moot point now, but a few years ago, Car&Driver or Road&Track or even TTAC should have done a “real world” road test on couple of cars, say a VW GTI and a Honda Accord, same engine, equipped similarly, one with manual trans, one with auto, driven identically, to see which one used more fuel. I think in the real world, even when the automatic has the better EPA ratings, the manual trans will do better.

      • 0 avatar
        redapple

        SCA:

        Agreed. I never lock my car.
        There is nothing in there to steal. Help yourself to the ice scraper if you want. Tire pressure gage. Whatever.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Don’t shift for me.
      :-/

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The last manual Mercedes Benz we got here in the states was the mid 2010’s C-Class and last SLK. When the first SLK arrived in 1998 they were automatic only (Hairdressers car!) then a couple years later Benz offered a 6 speed version.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “while Daimler’s plan was not to eliminate V8 and V12 engines from the Mercedes lineup, the company would ultimately have to utilize four-cylinder engines at a much higher frequency — especially if its ultimate goal is to prioritize EV sales moving forward.”

    They better get their a$$ in gear then. Mercedes’ 4-cylinder cars aren’t anything special and the EQC is hardly a world-beater either. I think a PHEV I6 would be a better way to game fuel economy rules until they have better BEVs ready.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed.

      “We are reviewing our product portfolio, especially as we announced so many pure EVs,” Schafer said in March. “Knowing the complexity after the growth in the last couple of years means we are definitely reviewing our current lineup.”

      These statements sound like they just realized they made a bunch of promises they can’t keep. Reviewing the current lineup today means they’re probably 4-5 years from turning the ship around.

      • 0 avatar
        Serpens

        @SCE to AUX

        The decisions were made long ago, they’re just now publicly talking about as they have several models about debut that reflect the new product strategy. The next generation C-class is going to 4 cylinder only, the next SL will feature a 4-cylinder hybrid powerplant on the low end, and they have several EVs going, some on dedicated platforms, all coming next year.

    • 0 avatar
      Serpens

      Their ass is already in gear. The next-generation C-class is due next year. Even the AMG C63 will have a 4-cylinder + hybrid power. That ship has sailed.

      On the EV front, the EQS will be shown on a EV-dedicated platform in the next few months. You will also see a EQE and EQS SUV based on that same platform debut next year.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        My comment was more about “they need to do better” not “the cars need to exist”.
        Just building a 4-cylinder C63 and a bunch of “EQ” cars doesn’t do anything if they end up below average. Mercedes can turn itself into Cadillac circa 1980 pretty fast if it isn’t careful.

        • 0 avatar
          Serpens

          @Ajla

          Well you also didn’t take into account they’ve already demonstrated they can do high performing 4 cylinder cars, i.e. AMG CLA45. And the EQS will show that their main strategy isn’t putting out compromise cars like the EQC, which was simply an adapted GLC.

    • 0 avatar
      ThomasSchiffer

      When my GL320 CDI 4Matic was getting its yearly service last year, I was able to drive the new A-Klasse A200 as a loaner. This car is equipped with a 1.3-Liter four-cylinder turbo engine mated to a 7-DCT.

      In truth, I was skeptical before I even tried the car. But from the moment when I pressed the engine start button my world was about to change for the better. The engine was remarkably silent and smooth. And there were no vibrations. None at all. There was also no turbo lag that I could feel, and the acceleration was incredibly agile and fluid. It was not a slow car. The start-stop function was on a very high refinement level, and smooth. The engine did not have the typical attributes we associate with four-cylinder engines. I must mention the smoothness again, because the motor truly had inline-six refinement characteristics. Try it If you can (but this motor is not sold in North America).

      Today’s four-cylinders are a far cry from they used to be. I am still holding out for the new GLS-Klasse once they hit they used market, but I could also see myself driving perhaps a GLB-Klasse with that same 1.3-Liter motor.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Maybe I’ll keep driving my 2012 B-class with manual a little longer…

  • avatar
    conundrum

    In European reporting of this ambitious new plan to make Mercedes into just another medium quality car maker, Daimler said they expect to reduce capital R&D spending by 20% and get rid of 20% of their overhead too, all due to lower complexity and fewer new models plus, well hell, EVs have fewer oily bits y’know.

    Of course, we already see what’ll happen. The GLA crossover loaded up to equalize features and including some completely useless ones is almost as good as a CX-5 Turbo, and for only 50% more! That takes raw Stuttgart talent, my friends. A badge wh*re type person or one with certain social airs simply MUST have the Mercedes Benz, its logo emblazoned everywhere for reassurance of money spent, one or three not far from the faux leather seats and the $99.95 LCD screen masquerading as instruments, controls, social media listener-in ManyBUX and infotainment all-in-one. BMW X1 and X2 follow the same hollow prescription — a tin box at premium prices but this time on a MINI Alexa-fed platform and ground-hugging clearance to bound over grass clumps with ease. All for that essential cross-country ruggedness so needed by the intrepid backwoods SUV explorer clad in casual wear chasing a damnable Crosstrek through muskeg bogs. “Whaddya mean, we’re stuck, Fred? Open up that mighty B48 nuclear turbo-power plant to full chat and destroy the mud!”

    The Daimler trick is to get you to pay well over the odds for a so-so vehicle, then to go around lording it over the proles because of the badge. I mean, you even get a free non-functional grille with the EQC EV — that’s darn solid value right there.

    Premium vehicles? What a laff.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    But, but, but here in the US will trophy wives still drive them?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Can’t wait for the new entry level Mercedes with a direct injection turbo 3 and a Jatco CVT for the bargain price of 49k. Optional Pleather interior and gold plastic emblems. People will buy it just for the 3 star status symbol regardless of quality.

  • avatar
    Funky D

    Legendary build quality and longevity: Gone!
    Manual transmissions: Gone!
    Powerful engine options: Gone!
    Classic European driving dynamics: Gone!
    Rapid depreciation: Still present
    Dodgy plastic parts that prematurely fail: Still present
    Overly expensive maintenance and repairs: Still present

    There is no really good reason to buy Mercedes anymore.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Pretty simple. EV =/= manual option. All of the Yurpeens are running from the last false prophet of Diesel so expect more ( read: all ) companies to follow suit. EVs really do make sense over there, mind you: I’ve driven across Ireland in less time than I’ve commuted to work in two days. Dublin is great. Check out Temple Bar for a weekend. Don’t bring any kind of car.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Nobody wants three pedals, everybody wants three rows.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Did Mercedes even sell sticks anytime recently in the USA?

    I’m telling you this rush to EVs and 4 cylinders is going to leave a trail of destruction. The EU can mandate whatever they want (they’re good at that). Then when lots of damage is done they’ll have a shocking revelation that you can’t make people desire or buy things they don’t want and change course. After billions thrown into the furnace and probably a few auto companies going out of business.

    The other danger is that if you’ve got 4 cylinder hybrids…. so does everyone else. What special reason do I have to buy a Mercedes at this point? The Ford 4 cylinder hybrid system is probably just as good or better than Mercedes. Smoother. Lasts longer. Better MPG. Part of what makes something luxurious is that it has features not available in pleb models. Am I supposed to believe some higher resolution iPads and some fancy inside lighting and a Star on the hood are enough of a luxury differentiator to pay 50% more?

    To be clear this is not a problem exclusive to Mercedes. BMW has also nearly lost all of the magical things that built its brand. You can ride your image for awhile but eventually people ask “why am I buying this again? What is so special about this that makes it worth this price?” (See Cadillac starting in the 1980s).

    • 0 avatar
      Old_WRX

      “Star on the hood are enough of a luxury differentiator to pay 50% more?”

      I think they are still riding off the long gone quality they had back in the day of things like the 280SE, 240D and such. Those older MB were built really well, but that’s long past.

      You forgot to mention the perfume dispenser thing on upscale MB’s. No need to hang that Christmas tree from the rear view mirror. Now isn’t that worth shelling out for?

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