Mercedes-Benz to ‘eliminate’ manual gearboxes and cull ICE powertrains

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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 firm 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 and developing in-car software systems, and includes a major cost reduction plan to boost its profitability – and which will lead to the elimination of manual gearboxes in its line-up.

“We need to reduce complexity,” said Mercedes-Benz R&D boss Marcus Shaeffer. “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’ll reduce the number of options significantly.”

No timeline has yet been given for when Mercedes aims to eliminate manual gearboxes by, 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 eliminate.

The overall goal of the new cost reduction strategy is to reduce fixed cost by more than 20 per cent compared to 2019 by 2025. The firm has also targeted cutting capital expenditure and R&D spending by more than 20 per cent 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. These do not require gearboxes in the traditional sense.

James Attwood

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