Mercedes-Benz's X-Class Isn't Here Yet

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The automotive media seems to be falling all over itself in anticipation of Mercedes-Benz entering the mid-size pickup truck global marketplace. The new X-Class pickup will be offered on a shared platform with the next-generation Nissan NP300/Navara and Renault Alaskan. It will be made in Spain starting next year, then Argentina in 2018, according to Automotive News (subscription required).

Many of these excited auto writers are familiar with the Mercedes-Benz brand stance and product positioning in the U.S. — being a strong player in the luxury performance sedan and SUV segments means premium prices and high quality standards. Why wouldn't they love the idea of a premium-priced, high-quality mid-size pickup?

The problem is that the market for something like this in the U.S. is ridiculously small. The mainstream and luxury pickup truck marketplace is very different from the mainstream and luxury sedan marketplace. Being profitable with low-volume sports sedans is easy; being profitable with expensive mid-size and half-ton pickups is hard — unless you make thousands of them.

To counter this observation about very different segments — one that Mercedes seems to understand better than the folks covering the industry — the automaker is showing two X-Class concepts to cater (pander?) to every truckmaker's two most desirable segments: high-end luxury buyers and adventure-ready outdoor enthusiasts (who also have gobs of cash to spend on aftermarket accessories).

We have to admit that these concepts look interesting. But we don't think these are vehicles the typically conservative Mercedes would bring to the U.S. market, especially with increased competition, rising incentive wars and a predicted sluggish economy for the next several years.

Our guess is that Mercedes-Benz will take the same tactic we've seen with its mid-size Metris and full-size Sprinter commercial vans: It will likely come to market with a safety-tech-packed, basically appointed work truck offering substantial towing and payload numbers, then follow that credibility builder with two more models — one with more options aimed at personal-use customers and another more economical version to better cater to price-conscious fleet buyers. But none of this will happen until the next-generation Nissan Frontier (also based on this new platform) has a year or two in the U.S. market to strengthen its own position.

What does it all mean? Basically, what we have here are a few cool pickup concepts that will make the auto show rounds but won't see the back end of a production plant until at least 2030. Of course, that doesn't mean we wouldn't see a Mercedes-AMG X-Class 6x6 make an appearance in "Jurassic Park 6: Zombie Dinos" and go on sale for a few Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts with $250,000 in their pocket.

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Comments

Ford appears to be happy being last place in mid size truck market.

Wait till average pickup truck buyers/drivers start paying 140.00 for an oil change and 200.00 per hour for service. The Benz and BMW are great brands but there's a serious culture clash that PUTC is not addressing in this story.

I get a synthetic oil change (mobil 1) for less than sixty dollars at the chevy dealer. Loaner cars, great service and hourly rates that are less than half of what my wifes BMW dealer charges.

Not interested, thank you.

@papa, WOW 60 is steep for an oil change, I would do it for you for 45 :)

Anyway, something so simple to do and save money and people dont do it, now the Mercedes would be an awesome truck, I would love to see that happen.

And johnny/gms, Ford doesnt care they are number 1 for 39 years, that market when they enter they will blow it away as well, for another 39 years

Don't forget to mention that midsize market is growing at a rate comparable to crossovers. They compete with large crossovers in a lot of ways. The market for midsize trucks continues to surpass growth from the full size market. I don't think it will ever catch the full size market but then again the switch from cars to crossovers happened in a flash.

"The problem is that the market for something like this in the U.S. is ridiculously small..."

I think this article (and most like it) are missing the point. The X-Class is not a Mercedes for pickup truck buyers, it's a pickup/lifestyle truck for Mercedes buyers. That's a pretty important distinction.

This thing wont likely (and isnt designed to) steal sales from top trim level American trucks. This is for someone who DD's a C63AMG and wants a truck to match for his dove hunting trips.

"high-quality mid-size pickup" I guess the Tacoma no longer qualifies as Consumer Reports just demoted the '16 to "average".

Anyway, a Merc pickup in the US won't fly; to expensive to own and maintain. Also, the Germans are good at making things unnecessarily complicated. They do make the best looking vehicles though!

2030? there prob wont even be gas engines by then

@Nitro

they don't just change the oil.

Free loaner and they pay for the gas. Nothing is free. Plus mobil 1 is about five $ per quart just for the oil retail. More at a lot of places.

Truth be known, I change the oil myself when the schedule the weather allows.

Competition is great and the art as usual looks cool... Im not in the market for a mid sized toy truck though and probably never will be again. But good luck to them.

Nitro you are right, Ford is #1 at sucking for 39 years.

@johnny/gmsrgreat, your right, chevy and gmc will always be behind Ford.

@papa, sounds worth it just for the loaner and gas, now that's a deal

Why can't any of the big three make a awesome looking truck like that Green one?

Keep being delusional Nitro.

http://cars.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83451b3c669e201bb093eff1d970d-pi

12 years before this may be produced? Hitler would have done it in months with slave labor

I doubt that the M-B version is coming unless it's a Sprinter/Metris-level work truck. I AM looking forward to the new bodystyle Nissan Frontier now that the light-duty Titan and "medium-duty" Titan XD are out the gate.

@devilsadvocate
If you saw the promo clip, the XClass is not destined for NA at all.
Head of Daimler Benz emphasised the markets in the promo.
Daimler Benz estimates that 2.8 million Pickups will be sold outside NA in 2025
Interesting the group of German presenters, never said " Pickup Truck" Truck has a more utilitarian meaning in Europe and elsewhere

@devilsadvocate, @Liam @papajim
Here is the YouTube Promo of the official launch in Stockholm Sweden.
MB is trying to get Europeans excited about Pickups, their is a very negative attitude towards them. Having over 500 million in the EU, makes it potentially a lucrative market. They did it with SUV's, why not Pickups

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_Nbx6Qmg1k4

You might as well leave Mercedes Benz a blank check when you buy one of these

@TRX-4 Tom
They will be competitive with the others on the market. I have just noticed VW has been putting down MB about their Pickup.
Rumours are BMW is looking at a similar luxury Pickup.

Mercedes benchmarked against, the Ranger, Hilux and Navara when developing their Pickup

http://www.goauto.com.au/mellor/mellor.nsf/story2/7EB1BF7B1623CEA7CA258058007B1D5F

In order for the truck to be sold in the U.S., it has to be built in North America. Read up on "chicken tax", then thank the Big3 for our lack of choices in pickup trucks in the U.S. I won't buy a Big3 vehicle based on that principle alone.

If not for the chicken tax, we would likely have the HiLux here, as well as the Amarok, Ram 700, Navara/NP300, Holden UTE, etc.

@RR- more likely benchmarked the Amarok than the Nissan, since this is built upon the latter. Whether it gets MB or Nissan powertrain is spliotting hairs, I suppose, since they're co-developed. From a parts perspective it would make more sense to use the MB engines, I'm sure.
@longboat- they could ship the trucks as knock-down kits to Alabama and final them right along side the GLE (former M-Class).

"high-quality mid-size pickup" I guess the Tacoma no longer qualifies as Consumer Reports just demoted the '16 to "average".

Anyway, a Merc pickup in the US won't fly; to expensive to own and maintain. Also, the Germans are good at making things unnecessarily complicated. They do make the best looking vehicles though!
Posted by: NoQDRTundra | Oct 26, 2016 12:05:41 PM


Yeah even Consumer Reports couldn't deny the fact that the 'new' Tacoma is lacking the quality of its competitors. They dropped its reliability status with all the quality defects being reported.

Overall they rate the 2017 Ridgeline on top at 75 and the GMC and Chevrolet filled in the middle with a 56. Tacoma at the bottom with a 41 rating. Again this is supposed to be owner satisfaction.

CR's predicted reliability for the 2016 Tacoma is poor in the survey.

Mercedes-Benz hit the SUV market before BMW and Audi with the G-class and then the now discontinued ML-class. However the X5 was much more successful, as well as the Q5. Merc made some mistakes being the urban ML SUV body on chassis, while the other two were tall wagons with good handling.

I guess body on chassis is a must for a pickup truck, the only other quasi premium pickup (VW Amarok) is also body on chassis. It will be interesting to see what the new Landi Defender pickup looks, I guess Audi will certainly have they version of the new Amarok too. Perhaps even BMW will get one, but it's sure they will go with unibody like Honda Ridgeline derived from the X3 or X5.

@George: why do you say body-on-chassis is a must for a pickup truck? Honda Ridgeline has proven to be a highly-capable pickup truck, contrary to what idiots have been saying about it since 2005. It is more capable in many respects than full-size trucks were a decade before. It's biggest downfall was that it didn't look like what people thought it should look like. New one is better in terms of generic looks, and still highly-capable.

"If not for the chicken tax, we would likely have the HiLux here, as well as the Amarok, Ram 700, Navara/NP300, Holden UTE, etc."

1. The chicken tax is a dead excuse. These trucks can easily be built in North America if they chose to do so. Besides, the Chinese could import their pickups here and would never be affected by the tax.

2. VW's not interested in selling the Amarok here-yet. Ram 700 is not the right size unless for service fleets; expect the Fiat Toro to be sold here as a Ram to compete against the Honda Ridgeline. The new Navara Frontier will be here in 2018; just wondering if it will be similar to the global version. As for the Holden Ute, the US and Australia have a tariff-free trade zone, so the chicken tax was never an issue. GM's bankruptcy killed the Pontiac badged version that was due for 2010 (It should have been a GMC in the first place), and now GM is shutting down Australian production next year. BTW, Ford closed shop earlier this month, and Toyota will leave a month after GM closes down.

@Longboat I think Ford had the Explorer Trac based on unibody construction, but it didn't sell well and it was discontinued. Only the smallest FWD pick-ups use monocoques and those have rear leaf springs suspension.

SUV's all used to be body on frame, nowdays there are few models left. Mostly pickup derived, obsolete models and off-road speciality 4x4's. However most SUV's seldom do any off-roading, so it made sense to optimize SUV's for on road use. A Range Rover is better to drive than a Land Cruiser.

I had an small Mitsubishi unibody SUV with blocking differentials and low gears that I frequently had to use off-road, mostly to access remote areas after floodings with deep mud and water. I sometimes also went to remote places in the mountains or at the sand. I didn't notice any problems and it was stronger than I thought.

Pickups are bought for work at least in half the cases, even more for heavy duties. Sincerely I doubt the Ridgeline will sell well. Not that much because the unibody construction isn't good enough for light work, but because of the general perception that is much less robust.

@George

The Sport Trac was body on frame, not unibody.

@ George,
I've been in the market for a Ridgeline, but dealers can't keep the upper trims on the lots for more than a few hours. Many are sold weeks or months before delivery. So far, Honda is having trouble meeting demand.

As far as unibody and work, most of the new commercial work vans are unibody. I think he only BOF work van is the Nissan NV200 (and it's variant sold as the Chevy Express).

Unibody might not do as well for towing (although Ridgeline apparently tows 5000lbs pretty darn easily). Grand Cherokee tows, I think, 7500lbs and it is unibody, but it also has D-pillars, which pickup trucks lack.

In the grand scheme of things, BOF is generally cheaper to build in larger platforms, and unibody is easier to build in smaller platforms. Unibody does have distinct advantages in packaging, which is why the commercial work vans have gone that route (better utility). Cost of re-tooling would be the major obstacle keeping mfrs from going to unibody vs BOF.

I think you are correct in guessing that many people won't think the Ridgeline is capable enough for their needs. I'd bet the vast majority of those people are flat out wrong. Ignorance can be expensive.



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