In a surprise move, Mercedes has announced that it plans to offer a midsize pickup truck nearly worldwide within the next five years. While the GMC Canyon is also considered a midsize, luxury pickup truck, the Mercedes would be the first midsize offering from a truly premium manufacturer. Considering the success of its SUVs, a midsize truck wouldn’t be a wild departure for Mercedes, even though Mercedes’ van division will be responsible for the development of the new truck.
“Years ago, SUVs used to be, well, rough. Then they became prettier. Now, we see the same trend in pickup trucks. We see opportunities to enter this market as the first premium brand,” Mercedes told The Wall Street Journal.
Mercedes will likely reject the pickup truck’s traditional V8 engine in favor of four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines, and given its exposure to the international market, a diesel option or two may be in the cards as well.
The jury is still out as to whether or not Mercedes will bring the truck to the States, but there are no plans to bring it here immediately. Instead, Mercedes will focus on foreign markets like Latin America, South Africa, Australia, and Europe. Thanks to the 25% import tariff on trucks known as the Chicken Tax, if it isn’t built in the U.S., it’s unlikely that Mercedes will be able to justify selling it here.
A midsize truck is also the only pickup truck that Mercedes plans on building. In the same interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mercedes said that the full-size pickup truck segment is too U.S.-specific. Even though Toyota has had some success with its Tundra, Mercedes also sees the market for a full-size truck as too narrow considering how dominant the Big Three are in the segment. “It makes no sense to go there,” it added. A midsize truck, on the other hand, could be sold in almost every market.
As the midsize pickup truck segment evolves, Mercedes sees a lot of potential to redefine the segment in the same way that it did with the M-Class. Just how luxurious this future truck will be is still in question, though. The concept sketch provided by Mercedes shows clear inspiration taken from the current M-Class while still offering the muscular proportions of a pickup truck. If it’s going to do service in markets like Latin America and South Africa, it will have to offer more practicality than an M-Class with a truck bed would provide.
Most likely, Mercedes will offer a stripped out, basic version that will see duty as a work truck. A higher end version will likely also be available that offers all the features of a luxury SUV. Venturing into the luxury truck market is a risky venture; Lincoln was the first brand to try selling a luxury truck, the Lincoln Blackwood, but despite fairly positive reviews, sales were abysmal. Lincoln tried again with the Mark LT, but that didn’t sell very well either. Cadillac had better success with the Escalade EXT, but it was eventually canceled also.
That’s not to say that luxury trucks can’t sell well. While the Lincoln Blackwood never connected with consumers, Ford has had great success selling its King Ranch and Platinum trim F-150s. GMC has also done incredibly well with its Sierra Denali. All three of those are easily $50,000 or more with a few options added, which is quite similar to the Mercedes M-Class SUV. Sales of a Mercedes luxury truck, especially outside the U.S. could really go either way.
In its base, workhorse form, Mercedes will be facing competition mainly from the Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger, but the Toyota Hilux and Nissan Navara could be cross-shopped as well. Mercedes is reportedly planning to build its truck as part of a partnership with Nissan, however, and would build it on the Navara platform. Details are still being worked out, but Mercedes did say that it intends to make sure everything other than the platform is unique to Mercedes and not a simple badge swap.
As Mercedes finalizes its plans and announces more details, we’ll get a clearer picture of what its future pickup truck will be and where it will fit into the market, but for now, it will at least be interesting to see how this gamble plays out. Mercedes could hit a home run again like it did with the M-Class, or it could struggle to establish itself as a truck brand with buyers. At least Mercedes is taking a chance, though, and it deserves to be praised for that.
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