Mercedes Confused Over Why It Ditched V8s for U.S. Market

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

While Mercedes-Benz has gradually been moving away from larger motors, it was still a shock to learn that the company would be removing the brunt of its V8-powered lineup in the United States for the 2022 model year. Higher-end vehicles typically come with broader profit margins and Americans tend to like V8s, so it was strange to see the brand tailoring its product at the last minute. Less surprising, however, was watching the entire automotive community speculate on the reasons why.

As your author is constantly suspect of regulations, it was my assumption that emissions compliance was the main culprit. But one would assume European rules would have put the kibosh on V8s in the home market long before cars were neutered in North America. Mercedes likewise suggested this was not the case, alluding to supply chain issues that have been hampering the industry since the start of 2020 while it promised to fix the problem as soon as possible. Then, Daimler executives started giving different answers and hit the reset button on the global supposition surrounding the discontinued engines.

Speaking with Road & Track for the Munich Auto Show, Philipp Schiemer (head of Mercedes-Benz Top End Vehicle Group) stated that he couldn’t provide the outlet with any additional details pertaining to the absent V8s. But he then did the exact opposite, framing the overall situation quite a bit differently than what we were told in August.

“I cannot provide you with more details. It’s a quality issue. We are updating our vehicles every year, and we are not satisfied with the quality. And for us it’s quality first. So we have to do some retesting and this is the process we are in at the moment. So it depends from model to model,” Schiemer explained, adding that the S-Classes sold in the U.S. would still have V8s. “So it’s from vehicle to vehicle, from country to country a different kind of situation.”

When asked more about it, the executive refused to elaborate. But Car and Driver had badgered the manufacturer for information previously, receiving a statement that the V8 issue was predominantly about supply chain problems. While Mercedes suggested that other factors may be at play, quality control was not among them.

So which is it? Did quality concerns convince the manufacturer to change its North American lineup or is this a case of ongoing component shortages simply making it easier to keep building the smaller motors?

Perhaps neither. Car and Driver seems convinced that the quality assurance issues couldn’t possibly be the only culprit and noted that Aston Martin will continue using Daimler’s 4.0-liter V8 while Mercedes has it prepped for a few high-end models. It also doesn’t make sense that V8 powertrains have been deemed too crappy to sell in some markets but totally fine for others.

From Car and Driver:

Supply-chain constraints are similarly unable to explain the totality of the issue, especially given that this came largely without warning and the company is still supplying Aston Martin with V-8s. That leaves the compliance angle, alluded to in the official statement and Schiemer’s comments. Most engine changes require recertification by relevant authorities, meaning that it can be a lengthy process to get a vehicle back on sale when there’s an unexpected change. American authorities, in particular, have often been slow to certify vehicles in general and especially German ones in the wake of wide-ranging emissions scandals. That may be the most likely explanation.

While likely, it’s not particularly comforting to assume that Mercedes-Benz is keeping product out of our market because the regulatory pressures are getting too heavy. Tweaked for European compliance, Daimler may indeed have decided it might not be worth certifying the V8s in America. But the United States could end up being the tip of the spear as the company makes difficult business decisions and reinvents itself as an EV-focused entity.

The automaker has previously stated that the European Union’s strict emission rules would ultimately force it to streamline its powertrain offerings by 2025. “[Mercedes-Benz] will reduce the number of engine variants, going through Euro 7, by about 50 [percent],” COO Markus Schäfer said an August interview with Autocar.

Sadly, it seems like our market might just be getting an advanced taste of what that will look like as Mercedes focuses on China and Europe — both of which individually represent more than double the brand’s annual volume in North America. While I cannot say I like this scenario, it does appear to be a plausible explanation for why we’re not getting V8s anymore and leaves sufficient room for supply constraints to have played a role.

[Image: Mercedes-Benz]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
2 of 60 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Sep 30, 2021

    @ajla--Makes perfect sense but most of the sales will be suvs and crossovers and a limited number of sedans and most of those customers will not care. Fewer and fewer vehicles are offered for the true enthusiasts and with those vehicles there will be limited production and higher prices. Mercedes is looking at the long term in which there will be more regulations, increased mpgs, and a future where ICE is regulated out of existence. This is not a very bright future for those who are enthusiasts especially those that there is no replacement for displacement. Makes for a more boring future where vehicles have as much personality as a toaster or refrigerator. Dodge has come up with specialty performance packages on the Charger and Challenger but those are limited and higher priced but even those offerings will eventually go away as the mighty Hemi will disappear. You will see more EVs which have plenty of performance and more than most ICE but they don't have the sounds or the feel of the V8.

  • MisterScott MisterScott on Oct 01, 2021

    Well this is interesting. I had a 2022 AMG GLS on order that got "converted" to the V6. Cancelled it of course. I bought a AMG GT 63 S in June of last year and if there are quality issues on the V8 I'd like to know. The original excuse from the dealer on the GLS AMG cancellation was supply chain. I think quality control could mean anything. I rather suspect emissions. It seems like it is really impacting the dealers. My dealer is the #1 G-wagon dealer in the country. I'd be brushing up on my German and on next Luthansa flight to have a chat. The higher end models are the big money makers. It is weird to go in there and just see C and small ute's on the showroom floor. Mercedes better this sorted fast.

  • Aja8888 My BIL had one of these years ago. great car!
  • Wjtinfwb Job cuts and EV's... is that a winning strategy? You're locked in to substantial labor expense after the UAW agreement signed a few months ago. And EV's ain't exactly flying off the shelves en masse. Get the new Charger out already, it's been teased more than the Bronco and Supra were combined. Get a real Hybrid option out for the RAM trucks and big Jeeps that consumers will buy. Consider bringing back a Gen 3 Hemi with an aluminum block, direct injection and perhaps a Hybrid option to counter the Toyota debacle and get a jump on GM. Dump the Hornet and build Dodge a version of the Jeep Compass they can actually sell. A Dodge with Alfa bones isn't compelling to either brands fans. Fix the Durango's oil cooler problems to avoid alienating police departments nationwide. Do you want every cop in the US driving an Explorer? Freshen up the Pacifica and get Chrysler a cool sedan or wagon that can create a buzz like the 300 did more than a decade ago. And fix your dealers, they are by a large jackasses. Plenty of opportunity for improvement.
  • 3-On-The-Tree True that’s the worst beat down in history.
  • Jalop1991 Tesla has made getting repairs a real headache for some owners, as the automaker hasn’t allowed them to get work done at third-party shops. That policy has led owners to seek  class-action status against the company,So, move next to the airport then complain about the noise.Got it.
  • Jalop1991 One of the most interesting parts of this situation is that Stellantis, and by extension, the Chrysler Group, is increasingly considered a foreign companyNational Lampoon, May 1981.