Mercedes-Benz's Future, Revealed: More Maybachs, No Stick Shifts

Mercedes-Benz is planning some dramatic changes that could take the brand more upmarket.

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Mercedes-Benz revealed a lot about its future ambitions at a recent investor conference, as a publicly-traded company is wont to do. The plans include plenty of exciting developments, like the G-Class becoming a Bronco-style sub-brand and new electric cars. But there also are some significant changes coming in the name of profit that could dramatically affect the current Mercedes car lineup.

Parent company Daimler is aiming for a 20-percent cost reduction by 2025, and the expanding electric vehicle portfolio means significant reductions will have to come from elsewhere. According to Autocar, Mercedes plans to make sharp cuts to its many product offerings, including axing some platforms and internal combustion engines. And while stick-shift Benzes have been absent from the U.S. market for some time, Mercedes will also be dropping manual transmissions everywhere else.

Along with cost-cutting, Mercedes-Benz also wants to ramp up its profit margins on vehicles by selling more expensive cars. The new “G” brand will be part of that effort; Mercedes also plans to double Maybach sales. There’s a super-opulent Maybach SUV en route — which, judging from sales of the Lamborghini Urus and Rolls-Royce Cullinan, should make that sales increase more than attainable.

The changes feel like a departure for Mercedes. We’ve become accustomed to the brand offering about 30 models in the U.S., with the least-expensive cars starting around $30,000. But one could also frame it as Mercedes moving back to where it was during the 1980s and before — producing more expensive and more technologically advanced cars (including gems like the W124 E-Class).

In a decade where Mercedes-Benz AI technology could be as valuable as its cars, and customers’ relationship with the personal vehicle itself may be changing, paring down the car lineup to profitable models feels inevitable.

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