Mercedes-Benz has dropped a bombshell today by announcing plans to launch a mid-sized pick-up well before the end of the decade.
This translates to their being a Mercedes-Benz-badged one-tonne capacity rival for the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux, plus the Volkswagen Amarok, in Australian showrooms from about early 2018 — probably in single-, king- and dual-cab guises.
Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles has been working on the project for several years, and calls the forthcoming ute the “first pick-up from a premium manufacturer”.
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.
The Australian connection also runs a little deeper than that. Mercedes-Benz’s Australia and New Zealand operation has been integrally involved in the product from the beginning, and will also host local product testing soon.
No doubt Daimler is keen to throw its new ute against the brutal Australian outback to ensure it can cut the mustard.
Adding a ute to Australia’s sizeable light commercial market will boost Mercedes-Benz’s local volumes substantially — enough, you would suspect, to catapult the brand into the top 10. It’s already knocking on the door.
Consider that in any given month, a number of the top-selling utes in Australia are among the top-selling vehicles full stop. The HiLux is occasionally the single top-seller, while the likes of the Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton are often in the top 10.
About 15 per cent of the total Australian new vehicle market in 2015 is composed of 4x2 and 4x4 utes in the class where the Mercedes-Benz ute will compete.
In a short release today — we will have supplementary information soon — Mercedes-Benz said the demand for a ute such as this was sufficient, and the business case elementary.
“The mid-size pick-up segment is currently undergoing a transformation worldwide. More and more pick-ups are being used for private purposes, and commercial as well as private users are increasingly asking for vehicles that have car-like specifications,” Mercedes said.
“Mercedes-Benz is the first premium manufacturer to respond to this market shift by developing its own pickup,” the German company added.
“Thanks to their versatility, all-round utility, and payload of about one metric tonne, pick-ups are popular across the world and thus have good sales potential.”
The Mercedes-Benz Vans division is responsible for the new vehicle, which will expand its range of offerings beyond the V-Class and Vito load-luggers, further into the private and fleet sectors alike.
It comes as part of the group’s ‘Mercedes-Benz Vans goes global’ strategy.
“The Mercedes-Benz pick-up will contribute nicely to our global growth targets,” said chairman of the Board of Management at Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars division, Dieter Zetsche.
“We will enter this segment with our distinctive brand identity and all of the vehicle attributes that are typical of the brand with regard to safety, comfort, powertrains, and value.”
Diane Tarr, managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans in Australia, added that: “We are very excited that we will be able to perfectly serve customers looking for a vehicle that offers a high level of utility and at the same time has the comfort, safety, and design of a Mercedes-Benz passenger car.
“We have been working on this project for a number of years and Australia and New Zealand have been an integral part of the program from the very beginning. We will be conducting product testing in Australia over the next couple of years.”
The announcement of a Mercedes-Benz ute comes shortly after we published the first spy images of Fiat’s new one-tonne LCV, developed in conjunction with Mitsubishi.
Addpar: Mercedes-Benz has a global tie-in with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the latter of which is strong in LCVs and would appear to offer synergies.