Plenty of people thought it was an April Fools joke when Mercedes-Benz announced it was entering the burgeoning dual-cab pickup segment through a joint venture with Nissan.
Since then, the X-Class has gone on to sell – well – as many as we thought it might at CarAdvice. In other words, it's not setting the world on fire. Still, every manufacturer seemingly wants a share of the dual-cab market globally.
Klaus Frolich, board member for BMW Development, doesn't mince words when posed the inevitable question about a dual-cab by Aussie journalists.
We have to ask, especially given the rabid popularity of the segment in Australia, despite the slow sales of X-Class. Frolich knows exactly how popular dual cabs are Down Under too, he pays attention to what's going on in our market.
"Look, I’m the bad guy," he says in reference to why the idea never got off the ground internally, and him being the one to knock it on the head.
"If you look at the pickup truck market, there is a focus on medium price points, in Germany anyway. At the higher end, the sales are very low."
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Want to get down and dirty in a BMW, or carry heaps of stuff? The X7 might be your best bet...[/caption]
There is, however, more to the story. While Mercedes-Benz partnered up with Nissan on its dual-cab, the three-pointed star has a long history with commercial vehicles. Didn't BMW just execute a joint venture with Toyota though, for a certain Supra and Z4 sports car programme?
Surely BMW could reinvigorate that with the HiLux?
"To do a proper pickup, you need a ladder frame platform, and a monocoque platform is compromised," Frolich said.
"I have only two architectures and we do not get a proper pick-up truck out of it. I also think that it’s never profitable, the premium end of the market is very small in trucks."
Frolich is adamant that a monocoque would be required to deliver the driving dynamics BMW demands, which would therefore compromise the working ability of the dual-cab.
"We could discuss a joint venture with Toyota, yes, but we would be at the high end of the price spectrum," Frolich explained.
"With the sports car project, we were the senior partner, and if you look at the Z4 it’s one hundred percent BMW."
Will BMW change its tune on a dual cab? Could a HiLux ever be fettled to the point it is 'one hundred per cent BMW'? Not if Frolich continues to get his way.
"I have no market potential for a monocoque pickup," he said. "If worldwide Mercedes-Benz sells less than 4000 X-Class a month, there is no market there. I see no evidence that we can ever do a good proposition with a pickup truck."