The writing has been on the wall for the manual gearbox for some time, but Mercedes just put another nail in the MT's coffin. From 2023, the clutch pedal will be gradually phased out due to low customer demand. Speaking with German publication Automobilwoche, a spokesperson for the three-pointed star argued buyers' tastes have changed as more and more people prefer purely electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
"With increasing electrification, we see that customer demand is shifting towards electric mobility components, batteries and (partially) electric drive systems."
Of course, it's also more cost-effective for Mercedes by not having to invest in manual gearboxes anymore. Not that it's widely available now considering only certain versions of the A-Class, B-Class, and CLA still come with a three-pedal setup. Specifically, the more affordable configurations with the lesser engines, which are not available in many markets, with the United States being a relevant example.
In October 2020, Mercedes' R&D boss Marcus Schaeffer warned us about the luxury brand's plan to "eliminate manual transmissions," so the new announcement doesn't come as a big surprise. Take for example the latest C-Class (W206), which is an automatic-only affair.
Mercedes has already announced it will be ready to offer an EV-only portfolio by the end of the decade "where market conditions allow." Before that happens, new models powered by combustion engines will actually be based on platforms primarily developed for electric vehicles. It's a 180-degree change compared to the strategy used for the EQA, EQB, and EQC crossovers as these three have their roots in ICE architectures.
While Mercedes is bidding adieu to the do-it-yourself gearbox, archrival BMW still allows drivers to row their own gears in the base M3 and M4. The recently teased M2 (G87) will also have a clutch pedal, while lowly models such as the 1 Series are available for the time being with a manual in some markets.