You might have heard that Mercedes-Benz is about to launch a very un-Mercedes kind of vehicle: A pickup truck.
The all-new 2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class is a midsize pickup that will be offered in many markets around the world starting later this year. Mercedes hadn't been planning to sell it in the U.S. -- but a top executive said this past week that Mercedes is now studying the possibility of offering its new pickup to American buyers.
What Mercedes-Benz said about selling the pickup in the U.S.
In a press conference in Stuttgart on Friday, Mercedes executive Volker Mornhinweg said that the company is currently studying the idea of offering the X-Class in the United States.
"In the past year, the midsize truck market has come back a bit [in the U.S.]," Mornhinweg said, in remarks reported by Reuters. He noted the success of General Motors' (NYSE:GM) Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, and said that the company is closely watching developments in the market.
That's not a guarantee, but it sounds like Mercedes is leaning toward selling its new pickup in the U.S.
Why Mercedes-Benz is planning to sell a pickup truck
Mercedes is known mostly for luxury cars and SUVs. But Mercedes' parent company, Daimler AG (NASDAQOTH:DDAIF), has several different business units builds cars, heavy trucks, commercial vans, and even big buses under several different brands.
Most of the Mercedes products familiar to Americans, those luxury vehicles, are built by Daimler's Mercedes-Benz Cars unit. Another unit, called Mercedes-Benz Vans, builds the Mercedes-branded Sprinter commercial van along with some smaller vans. There are a few versions available to retail buyers, but most are sold to commercial-fleet customers around the world.
The new X-Class pickup is a product of the Mercedes-Benz Vans unit. It's a midsize pickup intended to compete with Ford Motor Company's (NYSE:F) Ranger and similar models. The Ranger hasn't been sold in the U.S. for several years, but it's still offered in many countries to both retail and commercial customers.
While the X-Class show trucks were both obviously retail-oriented, there will be versions aimed at commercial customers as well.
What is the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup?
Mercedes showed the X-Class in "concept," or show-car, form last fall. Actually, it showed two different versions of the new truck: "Stylish Explorer," with a luxurious interior, and the "Powerful Adventurer," with a more rugged look and greater capabilities.
The production version is expected to look very much like these show trucks. As noted above, it's a midsize pickup, in the same class as GM's Colorado and Canyon and Toyota's (NYSE:TM) Tacoma -- and the Ford Ranger, which will return to the U.S. market late next year.
The X-Class will be built by Nissan and Renault, with whom Daimler has an "industrial alliance." It'll go into production late this year at a Nissan factory in Spain, and then at a Renault factory in Argentina next year. It'll be sold in Europe, Australia, South Africa, and Latin America. Mercedes has promised a wide range of engines and options, but details haven't yet been released.
So will the Mercedes-Benz X-Class come to the U.S.?
I suspect that it will, but it might take a couple of years.
If it does, it won't be cheap -- after all, it's a Mercedes. But its price might not be outrageous. A GMC Canyon Denali starts at just over $39,000. If the X-Class comes to the U.S., its starting price will probably be right in that same neighborhood.
Midsize pickups, particularly in double-cab versions, have emerged as increasingly popular lifestyle vehicles. Most are sold to retail customers, in well-equipped trims that generate good profits for their makers. Toyota sells around 15,000 Tacomas a month, and the GM twins together sell roughly 8,000 to 9,000.
That's not a huge market. But Ford's decision to bring the Ranger back to the U.S. market is likely to give the overall midsize pickup market a shot in the arm, and total demand seems likely to rise. Given that, it's quite possible -- in fact, unless a recession intervenes, I think it's quite likely -- that Mercedes will decide to enter the fray with an X-Class positioned near the top of the market.
If it does, I think it'll find some buyers.