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Mercedes-Benz Introduces Luxury Pickups


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Bloomberg  /  October 25, 2016

Mercedes-Benz is building [Nissan "Navara"-based] pickups with nubuck-leather seats and oak trim, in a bet that double-cab trucks will reel in wealthy parents and sailboat owners the same way off-road SUVs did a few decades ago.

In late 2017, the luxury-car maker will start selling mid-size pickups, smaller than Ford Motor Co.’s F-150 that’s popular in the U.S., with seats for five people. Mercedes presented two near-production stylings of the X-Class in Stockholm this week, one with a brash metallic-green paint job featuring an electric winch at the front and the other a less rugged version designed for city driving.

“With the Mercedes-Benz pickup, we will close one of the last gaps in our portfolio,” Daimler Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche said on Tuesday in a statement.

Expanding into pickups shows how far Mercedes parent Daimler AG is prepared to go in pursuit of sales volumes as competition among luxury-car makers intensifies, even though attempts by rivals including General Motors Co. to win customers with upscale models haven’t always been successful. It’s also the latest bid by the world’s biggest maker of commercial vehicles to repurpose models for a broader audience, after it revamped its Vito small goods transporter into the V-Class family car.

Mercedes is set to unseat BMW as the world’s biggest seller of premium vehicles this year, as it boosts volumes with sporty SUVs that appeal to younger buyers. The company is betting that global demand for mid-sized pickups will expand by nearly 40 percent to 2025 to 2.8 million units globally.

 “Doing a premium pickup is an interesting experiment for Mercedes,” said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen. “Thirty years ago, no one would have thought that SUVs could become as popular as they are today. Pickups could go in a similar direction.”

Mercedes said key markets for the cars are South America, Europe, South Africa and Australia, where the segment already makes up 14 percent of total auto sales. Entering the U.S. could be on the cards too, said Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes’ vans unit.

X-Class vehicles will be “competitively priced,” connect to the Internet and feature a range of driver assistance features, Mercedes said. Plans for the model started in 2012, and cars will be produced in plants in Barcelona and Cordoba, Argentina, as part of Daimler’s strategic tie-up with the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Sharing production capacity and key elements like engines with partner Renault-Nissan is helping to reduce costs and accelerate bringing the product to market, said Mornhinweg. Nissan already produces the mid-size Navara pickup.

“The Mercedes-Benz pickup will bridge the gap between commercial and private use,” the company said in the statement. The target audience for the cars is “families with an active lifestyle,” ”cattle ranchers in Argentina,” and ”successful adventurers,” it said.

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Mercedes X class will target families, outdoor enthusiasts

Automotive News  /  October 25, 2016

Daimler's Mercedes-Benz brand today unveiled two concepts for its first pickup that will go on sale next year called the X class. The midsize vehicle will target families, outdoor enthusiasts and commercial customers.

Mercedes said Europe, Latin America, South Africa, and Australia will be key markets for the pickup. The brand also said it is examining whether to sell the vehicle in the U.S. market, but it pointed out that U.S. demand for pickups has shrunk dramatically.

"We are keeping a close eye on the U.S. market," Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes Vans, said in an emailed statement. No decision has been taken. "We are evaluating the conditions for such a move," he said.

U.S. pickup sales have risen 5.8 percent this year through September in an overall market that's barely ahead of a record 2015 pace. Most of the pickup  growth has been in the mid-size segment, up 24 percent.  Sales of full-size models are up 2.7 percent.

The X class will share underpinnings with the Nissan NP300/Navara and Renault Alaskan. It will be built by Nissan in Spain starting next year and by Renault in Argentina in 2018. The pickup is the latest product in an industrial alliance between Daimler and Renault-Nissan.

The X class will fill one of the last remaining gaps in Mercedes' product range, CEO Dieter Zetsche said.

The automaker believes midsize pickups are becoming increasingly attractive for private use in additional to their reputation as commercial workhorses. Double cabs that seat up to five have emerged as the dominant body style.

The X class will compete in a global market of 2 million units that Mercedes believes is set to grow by nearly 40 percent by 2025.

At an event in Stockholm, the company unveiled at two concepts previewing the production X class: the SUV-like "Stylish Explorer" and the "Powerful Adventurer" with more traditional pickup truck looks.

Mercedes-Benz Vans expects to invest close to 1 billion euros by the time the vehicle is ready for production start.

Mercedes said the X class with its high-torque six-cylinder engine and permanent all-wheel-drive will be capable of towing 3.5 tons while carrying a payload of more than 1.1 tons. It said the pickup will offer the same levels of comfort, safety, driving dynamics and design that customers expect from Mercedes cars.

Target customers for the pickup would be "families with an active lifestyle and an affinity to premium products," Mercedes said, as well as outdoor enthusiasts who need a comfortable premium vehicle for everyday use that also offers a lot of cargo space and towing capacity. Business owners such as building contractors, architects, and service providers were also potential buyers, it said.

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