Mercedes-Benz has categorically ruled out developing an off-road-focused SUV derivative of its forthcoming dual-cab ute.
This means there will be no Mercedes-badged, upmarket alternative to commercial-based off-roaders such as the Ford Everest.
As we know, Mercedes-Benz is developing a dual-cab ute based on the Navara platform developed by alliance partner Nissan, for release before 2020.
This Mercedes-Benz ute, for which Australia is a key market, will share much with the Navara (and the in-development Renault version), but will offer class-topping luxury and safety, may offer V6 diesel power at the top end and could exceed $80,000 in price.
But the mission stops there, says Mercedes. Even were Nissan to develop an SUV of its own based on the Navara to replace the soon-to-be-axed Y61 Patrol — something it will neither confirm or deny is in the pipeline — Mercedes-Benz will steer clear.
“No,” Mercedes-Benz Vans boss Volker Mornhinweg said when asked about the potential for such a project by Australian media last night.
“Because we have as you may know the G-Wagen with a ladder frame, all other Mercedes SUVs are unibody. For pickup, ladder frame is a perfect design principle.”
In other words, the only ‘proper’ off-road wagon Mercedes-Benz needs or wants is the iconic G-Class. The company need not overstretch.
Such as vehicle, though, would find a growing market in Australia waiting for it. A large number of the market’s most popular utes have SUVs based on them — Ford Everest, Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Isuzu MU-X and that ilk. Given the Everest tops out near $80k, a Mercedes-Benz version doesn't seem so far-fetched.
Nissan remains one of the few that has not yet spun-off such a vehicle from the Navara, but with the 18-year old Y61 Patrol set to die at the end of this year, the stage is set for such an offering.
We’re keeping an eye out for such a vehicle for Nissan, which would also serve as a spiritual successor to the previous-generation Navara-based Pathfinder. But even if it happens, the Three-Pointed Star brand is clearly out.