Mercedes can’t seem to decide on U.S. pickup market

Mercedes was very clear it had no intentions of offering its upcoming X-Class pickup to North American customers. Adding insult to injury, the German automaker confirmed nearly every other global region outside American and Canada would have access to the luxury pickup, including those in Europe, South Africa, Australia, and South America. But Mercedes might be changing its mind.

News from The Detroit Bureau suggests Mercedes is reevaluating the American pickup market ahead of the X-Class’ launch for the 2019 model year. Volker Mornhingweg, the head of the Mercedes-Benz Vans division, said this at a news conference on February 24, 2017:

“In the past year the (U.S.) mid-sized truck market has come back a bit. We are watching developments very closely, and we will take a decision at the appropriate time.” Mornhingweg was reportedly pointing to the success of General Motors’ mid-size pickups, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.

There’s no doubt Mercedes is also watching Honda’s success with its second-generation Ridgeline, along with Ford’s upcoming Ranger and Hyundai’s upcoming Santa Cruz pickup.

What’s more, Mornhingweg went on to say Mercedes’ assembly plant in Argentina would not have enough capacity to build X-Class trucks for both South and North America. As a result, the U.S.-spec X-Class would likely be built inside the States. That theory is further backed by President Trump’s threat of tariffs on imported goods, meaning a U.S.-built X-Class would be more cost-effective.

Mercedes has several routs it could take for U.S. production of the X-Class. For one, it could add to its existing assembly plants, including the one Tuscaloosa, Alabama or the plant near Charleston, South Carolina that’s currently under initial construction. Mercedes could also build an entirely new assembly plant with the help of Nissan, which partnered with Mercedes in developing the X-Class. Both the X-Class and upcoming Nissan Frontier will share a similar platform. Conversely, Nissan could expand the Frontier’s assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi to accommodate the X-Class.

Needless to say, Mercedes as a number of options, along with a very wide and untapped customer base in the U.S. And based on the number of high-end trim levels available with current pickups, a luxury-minded Mercedes pickup will likely do rather well.

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Why It Matters

The pickup truck segment is experiencing growth these days, along with the crossover and SUV segments. The addition of a true luxury-branded pickup would be welcomed by those seeking something classy yet functional – or at least conforming to the lifestyle image they desire to portray. Though Mercedes won’t be the first luxury brand to offer a pickup in the U.S., it would be the only automaker to currently offer one.

Ford has several luxury-themed trim levels on its F-Series pickups, including the King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited. Chevrolet offers the High Country trim on the Silverado, while GMC has more of a high-end theme with the Denali trim on the Sierra. Ram offers its Laramie Limited trim on its pickups. Even Toyota and Nissan offer similar trims on the Tundra and Titan alike.

It’s clear the market for a luxury pickup exists. The only question is whether Mercedes has the guts to launch the X-Class in the U.S. Our bet says the X-Class would do extremely well and create an entire sub-section in the pickup industry.

2016 Mercedes-Benz Concept X-Class

Read our full review on the 2016 Mercedes-Benz Concept X-Class here.

Source: The Detroit Bureau

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