It’s no secret that the Mercedes-Benz pickup due to launch around 2018 will use the NP300 Nissan Navara’s core platform, but the company insists the design and most mechanicals will be “real Mercedes”.
That’s according to Daimler board member Thomas Weber, who re-iterated to Australian media including CarAdvice last week that the much-anticipated light commercial from Mercedes-Benz’s Vans division would get substantial differentiation.
“Yes, to come to an attractive price we are using a common platform, but all the rest is done by Mercedes, to design, to develop the vehicle specifically to meet Mercedes criteria,” Weber said, building on previous statements from the brand.
Given the Nissan features unique-to-segment, comfort-oriented multi-link rear suspension, you’d expect some commonality there.
Said criteria is to make the “first pick-up from a premium manufacturer” — in other words, redefining how luxurious a ute of this size can be. As such, the Benz ute will be positioned above the Ford Ranger Wildtrak, Nissan Navara ST-X and Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate.
An $80,000-plus price tag seems entirely possible.
“We are sure, we can do a real Mercedes, starting with the design,” added Weber, though he was reluctant to go into too much detail, instead referring us to Mercedes-Benz Vans staffers closer to the matter.
Thus, expect the Mercedes-Benz Ute to get brand-specific styling — it won’t be a badge engineering exercise a la the Ranger/Mazda BT-50 — and a cabin design reminiscent of the brand’s recent wares to appeal to the growing number of buyers seeking upmarket load-luggers.
Under the bonnet, expect the Navara’s 140kW/450Nm 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel to give way to a Mercedes-Benz unit — potentially even the ubiquitous 3.0-litre V6 with 190kW and 620Nm used in a range of its passenger vehicles. This would put rivals in the shade.
The company cites the key markets for the vehicle as Latin America, South Africa and Europe — but also, crucially, Australia and New Zealand, both light commercial strongholds. Development testing will even occur in Australia leading up the the launch.
“Australia is an important market,” Weber re-affirmed. Dual cab utes are a massive market in Australia — the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Ranger are regularly inside the top-ten selling vehicle list in any given month.
As we know, the Mercedes-Benz Ute isn’t the only one that will be spun from the NP300 Navara. Engineers from the two halves of the Renault-Nissan alliance are developing a Renault-branded and -styled model to debut in 2016.
The Mercedes-Benz pickup will be built by Nissan in the Renault plant in Cordoba, Argentina, along with the NP300 and the Renault one-tonner, for Latin America. The three trucks will also be built in the Nissan plant in Barcelona, Spain, for other markets, excluding North America.
Mercedes-Benz has CKD plants in Thailand, and Nissan also makes the NP300 there. It’s unclear if this could be a viable source for Australia — it would help the bottom line given our trade agreement — or if Spain will be our source.
The Barcelona plant will produce about 120,000 vehicles annually for the three partners, while the Cordoba plant will produce nearly 70,000 vehicles a year.