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Future of Mercedes X-Class ute in doubt - report

A report out of Europe claims Mercedes is about to pull the pin on the X-Class ute.
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The Mercedes-Benz X-Class ute looks set to be phased out prematurely due to slow sales that have made the vehicle unprofitable even at its comparatively high price.

A report out of Europe, published overnight by respected industry journal Automotive News, cited unnamed but well-informed sources claiming the Mercedes X-Class ute “is to be dropped” as the company “seeks to reduce costs amid profit warnings”.

Only 16,700 X-Class utes were sold globally last year, including just 1500 in Australia. By comparison, Toyota sold close to 550,000 HiLux utes globally last year.

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class has struggled to get a foothold in the ute market due to its comparatively high price and relative lack of equipment.

For example, the Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton between them have technology not yet available on the Mercedes – such as radar cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and blind-zone warning – and are substantially cheaper than the Mercedes.

References to its shared Nissan Navara ute platform – both vehicles are made on the same production line in Spain – have also dented the perception that it is a genuine Mercedes worthy of the hefty price premium, even though the German company made substantial changes under the skin.

Some of the changes – such as extra body strengthening and revised suspension – added about 200kg to the X-Class versus the Navara, which blunted performance, fuel economy and cargo capacity.

Sales of the Mercedes X-Class have actually increased so far this year in Australia – up by 48 per cent from 738 to 1090 deliveries in the first six months of 2019 – however the recovery has been driven by substantial discounts.

Classified advertising websites show numerous brand-new X-Class variants being offered for more than 10 per cent off list price. Low-kilometre demonstrators are being advertised for more than 20 per cent off list price.

There is also a large number of privately-owned X-Class utes that are one-year old, being offered at even sharper prices, indicating some early buyers are now trying to get out of them.

To find out how long the Mercedes X-Class will remain in local showrooms, CarAdvice put the following questions to Mercedes-Benz Australia:

  • 1) Is the future of the Mercedes X-Class safe in Australia and, if so, for how long?
  • 2) Will the Mercedes X-Class be dropped about the same time a facelift is due, or is the facelift going to go ahead as planned?
  • 3) Has the Mercedes X-Class met sales expectations in Australia?
  • 4) Will Mercedes re-enter the ute market at a later date either with a vehicle it develops in-house or with a new manufacturing partner?

The statement issued by Mercedes-Benz Australia in response to those questions was:

“Our positioning to anything that’s written in the European report overnight is that we do not comment on speculation. To your questions, all I can say is that the X-Class is a fixed component of our Mercedes-Benz Vans product portfolio for Australia. We are focused on continuing to establish the product in the Australian market.”

In April, CarAdvice reported that Mercedes had decided to end its manufacturing partnership with Nissan – but now it seems the company has decided to leave the pick-up market altogether.

A facelift was due in 2020-2021, however CarAdvice understands that has been postponed indefinitely and could instead mark the vehicle's end of production date.