The much-anticipated Mercedes-Benz pick-up or ute – which could be known as the Mercedes-Benz X-Class or Z-Class – will cater to buyers who want a work ute or a lifestyle ute, or both.
That’s according to Ola Källenius, member of the board of management of Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz Cars marketing and sales, who told CarAdvice at the 2016 New York motor show this week that the ute will have “a little bit of both” when asked if the vehicle will be focused on work or play.
“It will have versions that are more towards the commercial side of it and versions that are more for the individual passenger-car-like use,” he said.
CarAdvice has already reported on the possible range structure of the new Benz ute, which will share components with the Nissan Navara NP300, and it matches up – three models, with the lower two likely to be focused more on day-to-day users while a top-spec version could appeal more as a lifestyle or look-at-me vehicle.
“It’s developed by our van division, but in markets like Australia it will be sold through our [passenger car] dealerships,” Källenius said.
He agreed that the new model will essentially follow the lead of the Volkswagen Amarok in aiming to offer buyers at either end of the budget something to consider.
“You could say that,” Källenius said.
When asked if buyers can expect it offer the hallmarks of the Benz nameplate, including luxury finishes and high quality, Källenius indicated that would definitely be the case.
But as for performance and sportiness, he made it clear, once again, that an AMG version wouldn’t be part of the mix.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s on top of the list for an AMG, because the pick-up segment is not necessarily associated with hardcore, on-track performance cars. That’s unlikely.
“But you will have a spread from a more commercial vehicle-oriented version of it, to something that is more for the individual, yes,” he said.
The version that Källenius may be referring to is a model with an AMG styling kit, as was discussed by Mercedes-AMG CEO Tobias Moers when he spoke with CarAdvice at the show.
He explained that there is zero chance of being an AMG version – be it a 43 Sport model or the full-blown 63 AMG with a big V8 – because the demand is virtually nil.
“No I think, you know, we don’t have, so far, identified a market potential for anything like that. And I think there is not a big potential,” he said.
“So far we had a discussion about the package – a wheel package, a ‘line’ package, cosmetics, so to speak. We then had a more precise conversation about doing an AMG out of that car. And so far is there is no plan to do it.
“I think that the market potential is not [there]. And then regarding the complicated, or pretty challenging project structure, together with Nissan and all that – no,” he said. “Never say never, but at the moment, no.”
Moers made it clear that he feels the new pick-up will be a true competitor to its only German-branded rival.
“The car is placed to be a competitive car to an Amarok, that’s what I think, or what I recognise so far,” he said.
“It’s main markets are South America, a little bit of Europe, Africa and then Australia as well, but the one and only country for doing something like that may be Australia.”
Moers said the ute has been ruled out of the world’s biggest pick-up truck market – the US – because the vehicle is “too small”, despite the fact that there are other more compact models playing in that space already: the Honda Ridgeline is more a lifestyle vehicle than a proper ute, and the upcoming Hyundai ute will likely be a size smaller than the current crop of dual-cab pick-ups sold in Australia.
As for further details on the ute, Källenius added that “it’s too early to talk about the technical details of that car, but it will be a Mercedes through and through, obviously,”
He further explained that the new model will follow the brand’s philosophy on safety, though couldn’t expand too much on specifics.
“If you’re talking about the SUVs, we certainly have the same standard with the SUVs as we have in passenger cars,” he said.
Wait until you see it, I think you will be convinced.
As for the timing, a potential 2019 introduction is still on the cards, while a debut within the next 12-18 months is likely.
“I don’t think we have announced that actually. Let me leave that question open for now,” he said.
As for what happens in the future - if Mercedes-Benz would move away from a tie-up model with Nissan and develop its own vehicle - Källenius suggested that there is little chance.
“We will take a first step now with this vehicle and see how it goes,” he said.“It still makes sense if you have a partner where you share some of the development costs – especially what’s behind the scenes of the car that is not differentiating. I wouldn’t say that's the reason that you go out on your own.
“If you have a good strong co-operation that can be developed ... [it is] better for profitability but you also accumulate more miles during testing et cetera, so there are other benefits next to just the financial side of things.”
For those buyers who may not be so convinced because it will, essentially, share a lot of parts with the 'donor' Nissan Navara NP300, Källenius claimed that the German maker is going to make sure it doesn't feel like that vehicle.
“There it’s very important that what they get is a Mercedes. So all the things that need to feel, look, and be a Mercedes, are Mercedes. That’s what the engineers are working on.”