Mercedes-Benz Abandons Manual Transmission, Sticks With Streamlining

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
mercedes benz abandons manual transmission sticks with streamlining

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]

Join the conversation
3 of 27 comments
  • Namesakeone Namesakeone on Oct 07, 2020

    Nobody wants three pedals, everybody wants three rows.

  • Jerome10 Jerome10 on Oct 07, 2020

    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).

    • Old_WRX Old_WRX on Oct 07, 2020

      "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?

  • Bobbysirhan The Pulitzer Center that collaborated with PBS in 'reporting' this story is behind the 1619 Project.
  • Bobbysirhan Engines are important.
  • Hunter Ah California. They've been praying for water for years, and now that it's here they don't know what to do with it.
  • FreedMike I think this illustrates a bit of Truth About PHEVs: it's hard to see where they "fit." On paper, they make sense because they're the "best of both worlds." Yes, if you commute 20-30 miles a day, you can generally make it on electric power only, and yes, if you're on a 500-mile road trip, you don't have to worry about range. But what percentage of buyers has a 20-mile commute, or takes 500-mile road trips? Meanwhile, PHEVs are more expensive than hybrids, and generally don't offer the performance of a BEV (though the RAV4 PHEV is a first class sleeper). Seems this propulsion type "works" for a fairly narrow slice of buyers, which explains why PHEV sales haven't been all that great. Speaking for my own situation only, assuming I had a place to plug in every night, and wanted something that ran on as little gas as possible, I'd just "go electric" - I'm a speed nut, and when it comes to going fast, EVs are awfully hard to beat. If I was into hypermiling, I'd just go with a hybrid. Of course, your situation might vary, and if a PHEV fits it, then by all means, buy one. But the market failure of PHEVs tells me they don't really fit a lot of buyers' situations. Perhaps that will change as charging infrastructure gets built out, but I just don't see a lot of growth in PHEVs.
  • Kwik_Shift Thank you for this. I always wanted get involved with racing, but nothing happening locally.