Mercedes-Benz has dismissed the X-Class as a “niche product” globally – despite the importance of the ute market in countries such as Australia – and confirmed in a statement to CarAdvice the future of the vehicle is under “review”.
The comments come less than 24 hours after the global head of Nissan pick-up programs refused to say whether or not the partnership with Mercedes-Benz would continue.
The X-Class has been in production for less than two years but its future has come into question following weaker than expected sales globally.
The future of the Mercedes X-Class has been under a cloud since April this year after the global boss of Mercedes-Benz, Ola Källenius, told Germany’s Manager Magazin the company planned to “end the co-operation” with joint venture partner Nissan because “almost all common businesses are in the red”.
In a statement sent to CarAdvice this morning – in response to comments made by Nissan in Tokyo yesterday – Mercedes-Benz said: “The X-Class ex-Barcelona for Europe and overseas remains a part of our product portfolio. Although we know that the ute plays a very important role in some key markets like Australia, it is a niche product for our overall worldwide product portfolio.”
The statement continued: “So we continuously review and analyse which further role the X-Class will play in our product portfolio. We kindly ask you for your understanding that we do not provide any further comments.”
When Mercedes launched the X-Class in late 2017 it had big plans to disrupt the top-end of the ute market.
However, only 16,700 X-Class utes were sold globally in the first full year of production in 2018, including just 1500 in Australia. By comparison, Toyota sold close to 550,000 HiLux utes globally last year.
At the European launch of the Mercedes X-Class, the company described the model as “the first pick-up from a premium manufacturer: pick-up meets lifestyle”.
“With the X-Class, Mercedes-Benz Vans is expanding its portfolio to a fourth model series and is closing the gap between commercial vehicles and passenger cars. As such, the pick-up marks another milestone in the growth strategy,” the media statement said at the time.
The company added: “The new Mercedes-Benz X-Class is uniquely versatile in terms of its area of application – it can be used as a rugged, all-terrain pickup but also as a vehicle for urban lifestyles and families”.
The press release continued: “The X-Class pushes the boundaries of the classic pick-up. It complements the prized strengths of a mid-size pickup with the typical Mercedes-Benz characteristics of driving dynamics, comfort, design, safety, connectivity and an extensive scope for individualisation. With this Mercedes-Benz meets the changing customer requirements and opens up the segment to new customer groups.
Mercedes-Benz said the vehicle was developed with the “changing requirements of the international pick-up markets in mind”.
“The demand for mid-size pick-ups with typical passenger car characteristics and comfort features has been steadily on the rise for years. At the same time, the number of pick-ups for private use is increasing. They are no longer viewed purely as workhorses,” the company said in 2017.
In Australia, the grim outlook for the future of the Mercedes X-Class comes as it has experienced a strong sales surge. The number of vehicles reported as sold is up by 48 per cent so far this year, albeit from a low base.
Judging by the prices being advertised for so-called "demonstrator models" in the classifieds, the dramatic sales increase of the X-Class is believed to have been driven by substantial discounts.
In CarAdvice’s recent 11-ute mega test we praised the Mercedes X-Class for the way it drove and the substantial differences between the Nissan Navara on which it is based, however its price premium weighed heavily against it.