Mercedes to ‘eliminate’ manual gearboxes and cull ICE powertrains

Mercedes-Benz will phase out manual transmissions and “dramatically” reduce the number of internal combustion engines in its line-up as part of a major overhaul to simplify its range and lower production costs.

The German manufacturer has made the dramatic moves as part of a major new strategy designed to achieve “profitable growth” in the luxury segment. The revamp includes a focus on electric powertrains, developing in-car software systems and a major cost-reduction plan to boost profitability – which will lead to the elimination of manual gearboxes in its line-up.

“We need to reduce complexity,” said Mercedes-Benz research and development boss Markus Schäfer. “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.

“We’re going to a more modular strategy, and we will reduce the number of options significantly.”

No timeline has yet been given for Mercedes’ elimination of manual gearboxes, although it will likely be achieved by phasing out cars with the option as automatic-only replacements are launched. The firm has also given no details of how many combustion engines it plans to cull.

The overall goal of the new cost-reduction strategy is to reduce fixed cost by more than 20% compared with 2019 by 2025. The firm has also targeted cutting capital expenditure and research and development spending by more than 20% over the same period.

The share of cars sold with manual gearboxes has shrunk dramatically in recent years, likely making it hard for Mercedes to justify continued investment in their development, especially as the firm increasingly focuses on direct-drive battery electric vehicles, which don’t require gearboxes in the traditional sense. 


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