Labelled “the Mercedes among pick-ups”, the all-new X-Class ute - seen here in concept guise, with the white ute being the Stylish Explorer concept and the yellow vehicle being the Strong Adventurer show vehicle - has taken feedback from five customer groups on board, with the company claiming that the new ute will “combine the strengths of a pick-up with the value appeal, comfort, driving fun and safety that distinguish the vehicles bearing the Mercedes star”.
Mercedes-Benz claims the new ute will therefore appeal to buyers looking “for more car-like characteristics, performance, safety, and comfort”. As a result, Mercedes-Benz has conducted research in key markets – including Australia – to see what buyers want from the Benz ute.
The company is keen to point out that Australians buy an inordinate number of utes when you consider the entire market – 14.1 per cent of all new vehicles sold in 2015 were utes, or 160,325 out of 1.1 million units, which is more than Argentina (11.6 per cent: 73,425 units out of roughly 600,000 sales), Brazil (4.7 per cent: 115,497 out of 2.5 million sales), Turkey (1.4 per cent: 14,001 units out of 1 million), Great Britain (1.3 per cent: 40,352 out of 3.0 million), Russia (0.8 per cent: just 12,836 of 1.6 million) and Germany (0.5 per cent: only 17,655 units out of 3.5 million sales).
So, what are the key customer groups that Benz says the new ute needs to appeal to? Here’s a list:
- Families with an active lifestyle and an affinity to premium products: buyers that mainly use their ute for commuting, shopping, taking the kids to school and sports, and taking their vehicle on holidays.
- Successful adventurers: people who live in the city but are sporty – they like to ski, jet-ski or boat, and they want a comfortable premium vehicle with sufficient cargo space and good towing capacity. Australia is a key driver for this focus.
- Trend-conscious individualists with an affinity to premium products: these buyers don’t want a mainstream option, rather one that is an everyday driver as well as a stylish weekend ride.
- Rural buyers and farmers: the sort of buyer who chooses a lower-spec model for their work/life purposes. “They need a vehicle that on the one hand takes them through unpaved terrain and has sufficient cargo and towing capacity. On the other hand, it must be suitable for driving to customer and supplier meetings as well as for use as an ‘everyday vehicle’ for the family”.
As for what Australia can expect, that remains to be seen – though it is highly likely that the new X-Class will be offered in lower-spec work-focused variants, as well as higher-spec, more luxurious versions.
There has been talk of what sort of pricing the 2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class will bring with it. The Ford Ranger Wildtrak is currently the most expensive ute on sale (from $59,590 for the manual, $61,790 for the auto) while the 2016 Volkswagen Amarok Atacama is priced from $53,990 manual/$56,990 auto. VW hasn't yet confirmed pricing for its new V6 Amarok range.
It is likely that the high-end offerings of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class will be higher than those mainstream brands, going off the fact that the German maker is generally priced higher in its competitive set in the van segment with the Vito and Sprinter models.
The new X-Class will be built in Spain for the Australian market from late 2017, with local deliveries due in the first half of 2018.