The new Mercedes-Benz X-Class shares plenty with the Nissan Navara ute, including manufacturing facilities in Spain (where the vehicles for markets like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Europe and Russia will be built) and in Argentina for the South American markets.
That is unlike the Nissan Navara sold in Australia right now, which is built in Thailand like the vast majority of the competitive set, including the Holden Colorado, Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50, Isuzu D-Max, Toyota HiLux and Mitsubishi Triton. Of the mainstream ute models, only the Volkswagen Amarok is built outside of Thailand currently – that vehicle comes from Argentina.
The changes between the Navara and X-Class are more than skin deep: the X-Class will ride upon a wider track, with different suspension and chassis components (including increased strengthening and a unique five-link rear suspension setup) and different engines.
But considering the new Merc ute will also roll down the same line as the Navara in Europe, a shift to building in Thailand could also be possible – but only if it’s required, according to Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans.
“It could be capacity to be used in other markets, theoretically. If we are overwhelmed by the demand then maybe we could use Thailand,” he said.
Mornhinweg also stated that the brand will not be selling the Mercedes-Benz X-Class ute in Thailand – which is one of the most pick-up hungry markets on the planet.
“We also had some discussions around it, but at the time we had to admit that the customer demand for a pick-up is smaller,” he said, before suggesting that Thai buyers want more light-duty vehicles at lower price points. The Toyota HiLux is the biggest selling model in that country, followed closely by the Isuzu D-Max.
“For our products, we have a kind of idea of how the handling should feel like, for example. There is some kind of width [to the track, to improve body stability and limit roll in corners], and they would like to have it small and tiny,” he said of the preference for narrower utes in that market.”
Another consideration is the free trade agreement between Australia and Thailand, which could potentially result in lower costs and lower prices for the new X-Class ute.