While Mercedes-Benz has gradually been moving away from larger motors, it was still a shock to learn that the company would be removing the brunt of its V8-powered lineup in the United States for the 2022 model year. Higher-end vehicles typically come with broader profit margins and Americans tend to like V8s, so it was strange to see the brand tailoring its product at the last minute. Less surprising, however, was watching the entire automotive community speculate on the reasons why.
As your author is constantly suspect of regulations, it was my assumption that emissions compliance was the main culprit. But one would assume European rules would have put the kibosh on V8s in the home market long before cars were neutered in North America. Mercedes likewise suggested this was not the case, alluding to supply chain issues that have been hampering the industry since the start of 2020 while it promised to fix the problem as soon as possible. Then, Daimler executives started giving different answers and hit the reset button on the global supposition surrounding the discontinued engines.
Speaking with Road & Track for the Munich Auto Show, Philipp Schiemer (head of Mercedes-Benz Top End Vehicle Group) stated that he couldn’t provide the outlet with any additional details pertaining to the absent V8s. But he then did the exact opposite, framing the overall situation quite a bit differently than what we were told in August.
“I cannot provide you with more details. It’s a quality issue. We are updating our vehicles every year, and we are not satisfied with the quality. And for us it’s quality first. So we have to do some retesting and this is the process we are in at the moment. So it depends from model to model,” Schiemer explained, adding that the S-Classes sold in the U.S. would still have V8s. “So it’s from vehicle to vehicle, from country to country a different kind of situation.”
When asked more about it, the executive refused to elaborate. But Car and Driver had badgered the manufacturer for information previously, receiving a statement that the V8 issue was predominantly about supply chain problems. While Mercedes suggested that other factors may be at play, quality control was not among them.
So which is it? Did quality concerns convince the manufacturer to change its North American lineup or is this a case of ongoing component shortages simply making it easier to keep building the smaller motors?
Perhaps neither. Car and Driver seems convinced that the quality assurance issues couldn’t possibly be the only culprit and noted that Aston Martin will continue using Daimler’s 4.0-liter V8 while Mercedes has it prepped for a few high-end models. It also doesn’t make sense that V8 powertrains have been deemed too crappy to sell in some markets but totally fine for others.
From Car and Driver:
Supply-chain constraints are similarly unable to explain the totality of the issue, especially given that this came largely without warning and the company is still supplying Aston Martin with V-8s. That leaves the compliance angle, alluded to in the official statement and Schiemer’s comments. Most engine changes require recertification by relevant authorities, meaning that it can be a lengthy process to get a vehicle back on sale when there’s an unexpected change. American authorities, in particular, have often been slow to certify vehicles in general and especially German ones in the wake of wide-ranging emissions scandals. That may be the most likely explanation.
While likely, it’s not particularly comforting to assume that Mercedes-Benz is keeping product out of our market because the regulatory pressures are getting too heavy. Tweaked for European compliance, Daimler may indeed have decided it might not be worth certifying the V8s in America. But the United States could end up being the tip of the spear as the company makes difficult business decisions and reinvents itself as an EV-focused entity.
The automaker has previously stated that the European Union’s strict emission rules would ultimately force it to streamline its powertrain offerings by 2025. “[Mercedes-Benz] will reduce the number of engine variants, going through Euro 7, by about 50 [percent],” COO Markus Schäfer said an August interview with Autocar.
Sadly, it seems like our market might just be getting an advanced taste of what that will look like as Mercedes focuses on China and Europe — both of which individually represent more than double the brand’s annual volume in North America. While I cannot say I like this scenario, it does appear to be a plausible explanation for why we’re not getting V8s anymore and leaves sufficient room for supply constraints to have played a role.[Image: Mercedes-Benz]
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