Looking at booming segment of mid-size pickups, the new Mercedes-Benz X class will be a game changer for its light commercial vehicles division, and will give a more diversified sales footprint, says Daimler corporation.
“Pickups are moving upmarket, just like SUVs have done” says Mercedes-Benz Vans boss Volker Mornhinweg. “SUVs are elegant lifestyle products with a high-quality finish to them. Not every customer takes them into the wilderness any more. We believe pickups could go in a similar direction”, he told Automotive News Europe.
Europe is a major region for Daimler's vans division, with 70% of it's 3,60,000-unit volume came from this region last year. With X-class, Daimler is targeting a diverse customer group from farmers in South America, building contractors in Australia, families in Brazil, and trend-conscious individuals in Europe and South Africa.
In next 10 years mid-size truck population will be nearly half to 3 million vehicles worldwide says forecast by Mercedes. The pickup aims to tap into surging demand for vehicles capable of transporting one-ton payloads and towing an additional 3.5 tons.
The X class will go on sale in Europe in November, in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand early next year and in Argentina and Brazil in 2019. For now, Mercedes says it has no plans to sell the X class in the U.S. where demand is mainly for full-size pickups. French market researchers Inovev forecast annual X class sales to be 50,000 a year with 20,000 sold in Europe, 20,000 in South America and 10,000 in South Africa.
JATO Dynamics said in a note that the X class is the first attempt to prove that the premium touch can work in pickup. He added the model will face several challenges in Europe where customers consider pickups to be work vehicles and prefer smaller cars.
The X class uses the same platform as the Nissan Navara and Renault Alaskan with a conventional ladder-type frame. Because of Daimler's industrial cooperation with Renault-Nissan, ladder type frame reinforces the long steel support on each side to give the truck its robust construction over the unibody format used by most automobiles.
Mercedes has introduced more complex and expensive features typically found in passenger cars such as a double-wishbone suspension for the front wheels. Instead of the usual leaf springs and drum brakes on the load-bearing rear axle, to better offset lower levels of comfort and handling in these kind of trucks, the X class was given coil springs and brake discs to give the vehicle a better ride performance and shorter braking distances on paved surfaces.
Facts of X class pickup
Engines - Two Nissan four-cylinder, 2.3-litre diesels with 163 hp or 190 hp. A high-torque Mercedes 255-hp 3.0-litre V-6 diesel will be released mid-2018.
Safety equipment - Active brake and lane keeping assistance systems, along with cruise control and trailer stability assistance.
Personalization - Customers who don't like an open flatbed, can order an aluminium roll cover or stainless steel Style Bars, or a removable hardtop canopy that gives the pickup a more SUV-like silhouette.
Base price - 37,294 £ (Germany)
Where built - Barcelona, Spain (for Europe); Cordoba, Argentina (for South America)
Main rivals - VW Amarok, Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Nissan Navara