Mercedes executives believe there is a global market clamoring for a luxury pickup, and they are placing a nearly billion-dollar wager that they are just the automaker to fill that niche.
Unveiled in October, this will be Mercedes-Benz first foray into the global midsized pickup market, and is the only current luxury brand to sport a truck. It is scheduled to launch in late 2017 under the name Mercedes-Benz X-Class.
Grand Rapids, Michigan-based auto analyst, James Gillette, said he is intrigued by the new concept, and predicts that there will likely be a receptive global market for the pickups.
Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, wrote in a statement that the pickup will close one of the last gaps in the automaker’s portfolio.
“Our target: we want to offer customers vehicles matching their specific needs. The X-Class will set new standards in a growing segment," Zetsche said.
The X-Class will have a payload capacity of more than 1.1 ton and a towing capacity of up to 3.5 tons, which is roughly equivalent to a Chevrolet Colorado.
Mercedes says that will provide enough power for transporting four cubic meters of firewood on the pickup bed or a sail boat hooked up to the trailer hitch.
The top-of-the-line model will be powered by a V6 diesel in combination with 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive.
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Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, wrote that the pickup will know no compromise.
He said the vehicle will have a ladder-type frame, high-torque six-cylinder engine, and permanent all-wheel drive.
“As an added value we bring safety, comfort, agility, and expressive design – in other words, everything that distinguishes vehicles bearing the Mercedes star. We will thus appeal to new customers who have not considered owning a pickup before," Mornhinweg wrote.
The X-Class will offer two design variations – the “Powerful Adventurer” and the “Stylish Explorer.”
The Powerful Adventurer will emphasize the vehicle’s off road capabilities and sport options like an electric wench and a dash-mounted fire extinguisher.
The Stylish Explorer is geared more toward urban use, placing its emphasis on comfort features – think commuting or dropping kids off at practice.
Both variations will draw substantially from the existing features currently available in the C-Class and V-Class.
Mercedes has not yet announced what the price point for the X-Class will be, but did say the new model series will be positioned in the segment at an “attractive price.”
Mercedes is not the first automaker to try their hands at a luxury pickup.
“It’s really interesting, because a few years ago several domestic makers tried to move into that direction,” Gillette said.
In 2002 Lincoln launched a luxury pickup called the Blackwood. Cadillac also tried its hand at an Escalade pickup model. Neither were huge commercial successes and were subsequently abandoned.
Gillette said that Mercedes seems to have some advantages that neither of the previous luxury pickups enjoyed. For one, the global auto market has rebounded since its crash nearly a decade ago. Also, gasoline prices are down from their historic highs.
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Add to that Mercedes’ caché as a luxury automaker, and the new pickup may have a fighting chance where the other luxury pickups failed.
The X-Class will be available in late 2017 in select markets in Europe, Latin America, South Africa and Australia.
According to Christian Bokich, Mercedes spokesman, there are currently no immediate plans to bring it to the U.S. market.
“While a pickup is under consideration for the U.S. market at some point, no timeline is available for a decision to be made," he said.
In the end, the success of the X-Class will likely hinge on whether Mercedes is able to tap in to the inner desires of would-be luxury pickup buyers, Gillette said.
“I think the end result is that typical pickup drivers, even on the high-end, have very specific goals in mind for what they want the truck to do,” Gillette said.
For example, Gillette said Toyota didn’t meet those goals when it first released its pickup. But, subsequently their offering evolved into a much more acceptable truck, he said.
“Mercedes needs to anticipate those needs and hit a home run,” Gillette said.