It’s official. The manual transmission is on its way out at Mercedes-Benz.
In news that’s highly unlikely to cause a ripple with Australian buyers, Mercedes-Benz head of research and development, Markus Schaefer, confirmed the company will “eliminate manual transmissions”.
The removal of manual transmission from the product mix goes hand in hand with Mercedes-Benz’s commitment to electrification of its vehicle range.
At the head of the electrification announcement comes confirmation that the EQ sub-brand will roll out six new models. Further down the range, however, it means current combustion models will expand their introduction of plug-in hybrid, closed-loop hybrid, and mild-hybrid electric assistance.
While manuals and hybrids aren’t impossible to integrate, add in Mercedes’ future focus on autonomous vehicles and its not hard to see why the manual is on borrowed time.
In an effort to reduce corporate overheads, Mercedes-Benz will consolidate its range of platforms, and reduce its range of combustion engines. Those changes will be more comprehensively explained down the track.
The full extent of Schaefer’s comments focuses on reducing product complexity as a way to trim costs, as reported by UK publication, Autocar.
“Complexity adds costs. We're going to reduce future products, reduce platforms substantially, combustion engines will be very dramatically reduced and we will eliminate the manual transmission.” Schaefer said.
“We're going to a more modular strategy, and we will reduce the number of options significantly."
Within its current range, Mercedes-Benz Cars still offers a six-speed manual in base variants of the C-Class, B-Class, A-Class and CLA in international markets, but hasn’t extended the option to cars like the GLA and GLB SUVs.
Larger models have been auto-only for some time, with the E-Class the last to drop its manual option overseas in 2018.
Locally the entire Mercedes-Benz passenger range is auto-only, with the final generation of SLK/SLC roadster the last to offer the option.
While manuals have survived at brands like Porsche and BMW for enthusiast models, Mercedes-Benz hasn’t followed suit, and has kept its high-performance AMG range auto-only.
The impact on commercial vehicles is, for now, less clear.
While the van division shares key components like engines and transmissions with the passenger car range, the popularity of manuals for vans in the European market could see them granted a temporary stay of execution.
Locally a spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles suggested the take rate on automatics was around 90 per cent. The current commercial vehicle range, Vito, Sprinter and X-Class all offer a choice of manual or automatic transmission, depending on specification.