Say goodbye to the good old manual transmission at Mercedes-Benz! The head of research and development has just confirmed that the smallest models in the catalog will soon no longer offer the choice in BVM and BVA: the next Mercedes Class A, GLA, Class B, GLB and Class C will be delivered automatically with an automatic transmission.
The manual gearbox only represents 5.7% of the transmissions produced by Daimler
“We have undertaken a process of simplifying our offer which involves reducing the number of platforms used as the basis for our cars, as well as reducing the number of thermal engines,” said Markus Shaefer during a presentation at the press, October 13. By 2025, the number of gasoline or diesel engine variants is expected to decrease by 40%, then by 70% by 2030. “At the same time, we will reduce the number and variety of types of transmissions for eliminate manually operated gearboxes”, Says the engineer.
Large Mercedes – sedans and station wagons like SUVs – have been delivered automatically with an automatic transmission for a few years now. Only the “small” Class A, Class B and Class C still leave the choice between driving with two or three pedals. Expected in the course of 2021, the next version of the Mercedes C-Class should skip the clutch pedal and the manual gearbox. By 2030, Daimler intends to sell only Mercedes-Benz with automatic transmission, several technical solutions hiding behind this qualifier.
Daimler wants to cut costs by 20% to help fund study of electric and hybrid models
This shift towards automatism is nothing new at Mercedes-Benz, since historically it is high-end vehicles and "big" engines (two specialties of Daimler) which adapt best to the “ automatic transmission". A question of mechanical performance as much as of purchasing power. Recently, however, automation has seen its market share grow rapidly among all manufacturers, for two reasons.
On the one hand, general manufacturers have invested in cheaper techniques (variator or robotic control and double clutch) which reduce the additional cost of the “automatic gearbox” at a more acceptable level than the old torque converter (1,000 to 1,500 euros more than the manual gearbox). In addition, the double engine hybrid gasoline-electric, which is essential at all levels of the range under the CO2 regulations, practically requires the use of automatic transmission. As for 100% electric cars, their engine delivers enough torque on takeoff to dispense with the actual gearbox.
Hybrids and electrics strongly contribute to the spread of automatic transmission
Customers have taken a liking to the ease provided by the elimination of the clutch pedal: they should not be moved by the announced disappearance of the manual gearbox and the clutch pedal, whose repeated handling is a chore. . For a minority, however, the good old gearshift symbolizes fun that still gets them driving a car. No need to drive a sports car to experience this feeling of communion between Man and his Machine.
There is an obvious tactile pleasure, a satisfaction as deep as it is intimate in precisely coordinating the action of the left foot and that of the right hand. Changing the gear ratio is not only used to accelerate the speed of the vehicle and to maintain the engine speed in its optimal operating range: this action helps to seat the car in bends, to contain or even to amplify the speed. tire drift to sometimes stifle the vehicle's tendency to understeer, sometimes to help it pivot. It's a subtle art and a very innocent pleasure that eludes most motorists.
Even at Porsche, the manual gearbox is losing ground
Much has been written about the symbolism of the gear lever, the phallic shape of which has inspired not always pleasant comments on the psychology of the motorist. In the days when automation was the exception, the two-pedal car sold better in the North than in the South of Europe. Low-level sociologists had deduced from this that a people's degree of Latinity prevented it from discerning the advantages of automatism, as surely as it made it hermetic to the rules of the highway code. At that time, the English tourist in Milan could be recognized by the fact that he was the only oddball to respect the red light and to give way to the pedestrian.
Two generations later, these contrasts have almost disappeared: never has a Southern European been so much like a Northern European, in his behavior as a citizen as much as in that of a consumer. Is it for the best? From the point of view of road safety and environmental protection, that's for sure. Only a few die-hards remain, thrill seekers to lament the end of the manual transmission. And not just at Mercedes-Benz.
Consider that Porsche will have made the fans of the 911 wait nearly a year before offering them the manual gearbox on the very latest generation of the Carrera. If most customers had anything to say about the PDK dual-clutch robotic gearbox, it was to taunt its selector that looks like a mini electric razor.
Porsche does not expect to sell more than 10% manual 911 Carrera S in its home market, about half as much as in the United States. Paradoxically, it is in the land of king-size automatism that sports car enthusiasts remain most committed to the pleasure of changing gears themselves.