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Mercedes X-Class and Nissan Navara to go separate ways: report

The joint venture ute project looks set to be short-lived, with a credible report out of Germany claiming Mercedes is about to end its alliance with Nissan-Renault in the wake of the Carlos Ghosn scandal.
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The Mercedes X-Class and Nissan Navara utes are set to go separate ways once their current partnership ends, according to a credible report in a German business magazine.

While the X-Class is not about to disappear from showrooms anytime soon, its long term future is unclear.

Mercedes embarked on the joint venture with Nissan to save time and money and join the booming ute market as quickly as possible.

However, the X-Class has not met sales expectations in Australia or overseas and Mercedes’ supervisory board has reportedly expressed its “displeasure” with the partnership, claiming it is losing money.

The agreement with Mercedes and the Nissan-Renault group was conceived under former Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche, who did the deal with Carlos Ghosn in 2009 – a decade before the Nissan-Renault boss was arrested and jailed for alleged financial misconduct.

Now the partnership is expected to be brought to an end. Such a move will also affect other shared models including the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Infiniti QX30 hatchbacks, and the Mercedes-Benz Citan and Renault Kangoo vans.

Car makers often share models to help cut development costs and enter segments of the market they would otherwise not compete in.

In an exclusive interview with the new boss of Mercedes-Benz, Ola Källenius, Germany’s Manager Magazin claims the executive will “end the co-operation” because “almost all common businesses are in the red”.

Although it does not quote him directly about the end of the merger, the report says “Källenius will gently drain the alliance … without hurting anyone”.

Nissan will likely continue to build the X-Class ute for Mercedes-Benz at its factory in Spain at least until the end of this generation Navara’s model cycle in approximately four years from now.

At that point, the Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton utes will become “twins under the skin”, sharing the same frame and technology – but with different bodies and interiors – following the recent tie-up between Nissan and Mitsubishi.

Where this arrangement will leave the Mercedes X-Class is unclear. Will there be a next generation X-Class, or will Mercedes vacate the pick-up segment?

Ford has already paired with former Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle partner Volkswagen, which will see the Ranger and Amarok become twins in the 2021-2022 time frame.

Isuzu and Mazda are well progressed on their shared new generation pick-ups, due in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

For now, the only mainstream brands going it alone are General Motors (Holden Colorado) and Toyota (HiLux), both of whom have sufficient global sales volumes to fly solo.

As it stands, Mercedes has three options: develop its own ute, get out of the ute market, or find a new partner.

Given that product development budgets are being heavily impacted by significant extra investment in electric and autonomous cars – and the same report claims Mercedes is trying to save 6 billion euros by 2021 – it is unlikely Mercedes will develop its own ute, especially as the first X-Class has had a stalled start.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling