Mercedes presented the X-class yesterday. It’s a pick-up. Launched in Stockholm, no-one knows why. Anyone?
The relevant facts are these: the Nissan NP300/Navara and Renault Alaskan will be pinned under using the same underpinnings. The X-class is not a concept though they talk about it as if it is and as if it’s not. It might not be sold in N. America. Apart from South Africa it won’t be sold in Africa. And not Japan either. Or.
Here’s the interior (below). If it can be ordered looking like this it will not be used as a truck.
About 19 years ago I spent a day satirically drawing a Lincoln pick-up truck to show to some designers I wanted to impress. Making a pick-up out of a Lincoln SUV was the most ludicrous thing I could conceive of (what was I thinking?) It turns out most satire is just prediction. The Truman Show predicted Big Brother and the Simpsons predicted Donald Trump being taken seriously as a presidential candidate. My Lincoln predicted this X-class.
If the people at Mercedes think they can sell a truck with the same MB badge as is found on an S-class then they are probably right. At this point I have no set expectations of what car makers will do. Aston Martin could launch a 5-seater hatchback or a panel van. Maserati might try making an MPV. If Rolls-Royce want to make a Mondeo-sized 4-pot FWD car, go right ahead. So, I am not here to get “upset” about Mercedes Benz and their X-truck. What might be more interesting will be the day Ford, Peugeot and Opel get it together to start selling cars at Mercedes prices. If I was them I’d be working hard to tell everyone that most Benzes are distinctly mainstream. I have no idea how that would be done without running down mainstream cars. But it can be done if you find a marketing firm smart enough. Money is persuasive.
The radical thing now is not that Mercedes and BMW can sell front drive hatchback and trucks, it’s that the “mainstream” should find a way to fight back. Ceding market sectors and price points is not going to work forever.
Another point is that of the three large German firms, Benz has been the most willing to spread out into less-than-premium niches. Are they not at risk of diluting the magical potion that is exuded by their E’s and S’s? BMW has shielded its forays downmarket with the Mini brand and there are no BMW vans like the Vaneo or Vito. Audi has been the most reluctant and its small cars are still very classy: naturally, VAG has VW, Seat and Skoda to do its dirty work in the lower price classes. Is Mercedes making a mistake in not having a second-tier brand to use for proletarian products? Even Renault has Dacia and Peugeot has Citroen.
Below I have pasted in the MB press-release but I’ve made comments in blue:
- Product range expansion for sustainable global growth
- Market launch in late 2017
- Key markets Europe, Latin America, South Africa, and Australia
- Investments in the high nine figures
- Two design variants, one message: the first true premium pickup
- The X-Class: powerful engine, high ride comfort, and exemplary safety
With the Concept X-CLASS, Mercedes-Benz Vans gives a concrete outlook (mixed metaphor: can outlooks be concrete?) on its new pickup, the X-Class, in Stockholm (why Stockholm?).
The first premium pickup will combine the best of two worlds. This is demonstrated impressively (see below: don’t tell us to be impressed) by Mercedes-Benz with two design variants of the concept car. 1) The Concept X-CLASS powerful adventurer (italic, caps, lower case?) illustrates that the future X-Class will possess all the strengths of a classic pickup – tough, functional, strong (tough and strong, please note; “tough” is not enough, it needs “strong” to help) and with off-road ability. 2) The Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer goes a step further (I can’t put my finger on the problem with the names….) and shows what will distinguish the pickup bearing the Mercedes star… [I left out a bit] This will make Mercedes-Benz the first premium manufacturer to account for the changing customer requirements in the global segment of mid-size pickups, and it will make the tough one-ton pickup with seating for up to five persons the first to be attractive as an urban lifestyle and family vehicle (this is pretty heavy going, like it’s been run through a TEFL programme).
With the pickup, Mercedes-Benz Vans will expand its product range with a fourth model series. At the same time, the brand bearing the three-pointed star will become the first premium manufacturer to occupy the promising segment of mid-size pickups (they already said that).
Daimler AG will make investments in the high nine figures (euro) in the new model series by the time of the market launch. It will be launched in late 2017 under the name Mercedes-Benz X-Class. The key markets will be Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Australia with New Zealand, and Europe (so it’s not a concept car at all, right).
Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars: “With the Mercedes-Benz pickup, we will close one (one! one! this implies there are other gaps) of the last gaps in our portfolio. Our target: we want to offer customers vehicles matching their specific needs (a novel strategy). The X-Class will set new standards in a growing segment.”
“We will open up and change the segment of mid-size pickups – with the world’s first true premium pickup for the modern urban lifestyle”, says Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans (for the modern urban lifestyle i.e people who don’t need pickups) . “Our future X-Class will be a pickup that knows no compromise. Ladder-type frame, high-torque six-cylinder engine, and permanent all-wheel drive are compulsory for us. 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.” (but who might have bought a car?)
Changing segment: Mercedes-Benz first premium manufacturer of a pickup
Worldwide the market for mid-size pickups is undergoing a radical change. Gone are the days when they were bought as mere “workhorses”. Instead, they are becoming increasingly popular as versatile vehicles for a simultaneous private and commercial use and as vehicles for a strictly private use (that’s why Benz are here. They aren’t after the painter-decorator market). The percentage of privately used pickups has been growing steadily for years. Accordingly, the double cab has emerged as the dominating body style, because it offers room for up to five persons. More and more private and commercial customers ask for vehicles with the characteristics and comfort features of a passenger car. A similar development took place in the segment of off-road vehicles some 20 years ago. Back then, Mercedes-Benz was the first premium manufacturer to launch a sport utility vehicle (SUV), the M-Class, and completely redefined the off-road segment – with lasting success.
“The Concept X-CLASS design variants interpret the hallmark brand design idiom of our SUVs in a most expressive form, and embody the dichotomy of our design philosophy: they are hot and cool”, (TEFL English again: a dichotomy is a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different) says Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Daimler AG (no surprises then) . “With its progressive design the powerful adventurer expresses cool modernity and thirst for adventure, while the stylish explorer on the other hand uses pure emotion to provide a tangible experience of modern beauty.” (repeat after me: a tangible experience of modern beauty).
Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer: progressive design with SUV looks (so why did you launch it Stockholm??)
The Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer, painted in a cool elegant white metallic, impressively demonstrates how the Mercedes-Benz pickup will make a decidedly stylish statement in its segment and in the urban environment (urban not suburban – are you sure?) The contrast of emotionally appealing and yet purist surface treatment (“hot”) (purist usually means a person who is fussy and particular) and technically precise, innovative and clever details (“cool”) reinterprets (problem here with transitive and intransitive verbs) the design philosophy of Mercedes-Benz. The athletic design lends the concept car a markedly expressive and dynamic appearance. The distinctive front represents an evolution of the hallmark SUV face of the brand – with a more massive powerdome on the bonnet and headlamps extending far into the wings. The classic SUV front apron and the strongly flared wheel arches put even more emphasis on the sense of width, and give the vehicle an even more solid stance on the road. At the same time, the front cites the single-louvre grille with centrally positioned Mercedes star, the face of the elegant Mercedes-Benz coupés (this is awful to read and still no Sweden).
The flared front and rear wings make room for a wide track and large tyre/wheel combinations for tough off-road use. 22-inch light-alloy wheels with a contrasting anthracite chrome finish give the Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer (the italics are getting a bit shouty, aren’t they?) a towering and superior stance. The running boards are integrated into the bodywork and emphasise the athletically sculpted body. Depending on the angle of the incoming light, the paintwork developed specifically for this concept car lends the urban pickup a look that gives the athletic profile even more emotional appeal. (that’s a lot of “more”?)
The extremely short front overhang, the very long rear overhang and two long lines stretching along the side amplify the focus placed on driving dynamics (can you amplify a focus? That just doesn’t make sense. Focus gets narrow or more intense). The rear of both concept cars sports the hallmark chromed SUV trim at the lower edge (problem there with agreement of “rear” and “both”), and as a distinctive feature, a continuous LED light strip in a slim chrome surround on the tailgate. It points to the unique character of the future pickup.
Stylish interior with a high level of operating and display comfort (are you still reading? They used far too many words for this Press Release. Driven to Write is the only one that has quoted all of it. Did you know that?)
The interior of the Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer is an equally emotional and stylish statement – characterised by an intriguing contrast of warm and cool colours, as well as by high-quality materials. The world of colours and materials translates the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy of sensual purity. The sensual touch and feel of the brown, very natural nubuck leather (“very natural”) on the seats provides a cosy feel. This warm colour, which is also found on the dashboard, is combined with cool white nappa leather. The trim made of open-pore smoked oak (smoked oak?) contrasts with the brushed and polished aluminium trim elements. The world of modern luxury is realised in a highly stylish fashion. (Could the the world of modern luxury be realised in a not very stylish fashion?)
The modern flair is further boosted by round air vents (“I will boost the modern flair with these round air vents, Gorden”), the free-standing high-resolution central display as well as the central controller and multifunctional touchpad. Similar to a smartphone, all telematics functions can be controlled with the touchpad by using gestures or by entering letters and characters. Mercedes-Benz thus introduces the most modern control and display concept in the segment of mid-size pickups. At the same time, the characteristics and functionalities typical in the pickup segment have been retained, such as the handbrake in the centre console (good and not because Nissan didn’t want it otherwise).
Concept X-CLASS powerful adventurer: the redefinition of toughness (I’m getting tired now)
Complementing the Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer, the second concept car focuses on the classic traits of a pickup. The Concept X-CLASS powerful adventurer with a lemonax metallic paint finish stages toughness, durability, and off-road capability (odd use of the word staging, I think). As a result, it impressively underscores the fact that the future Mercedes-Benz pickup will combine comfort and style with the basic virtues of this vehicle category. (This is very self-congratulatory: who are they to say it impressively underscores anything. It is for me to be impressed not for them to tell me I am impressed).
The Concept X-CLASS powerful adventurer (I get the problem with these names. They sound like odd Japanese market names for small Kei cars) towers above it all with a height of 1.90 metres. Large tyres of size 35 x 11.50, the huge ground clearance, and the athletic design instil respect even at first glance (even at first glance? It should always be respect at first glance. It sounds like a gun). The brand’s hallmark SUV radiator grille with two louvres, front and rear underride guard, wing claddings, and matte carbon wheel arches additionally underscore the superior off-road aesthetics (that’s worth dwelling on: superior off-road aesthetics as in the aesthetics of a superior off-roader or just more off-roaderesque?) An electric winch at the front and a metal hook at the rear are further indications of the toughness and power of the future pickup (and this writing is indication that nobody thought to ask a competent English speaker or editor to review this text for foolishness).
With its progressive design the concept car exudes independence and thirst for adventure in their purest forms (the mind boggles. I can’t imagine what this means: maybe driving to Mosul with a crate of Bibles in the back?). This feel continues in the interior (dear god). Matte carbon elements in the exterior and interior, metallic brushed surfaces, and a bold colour scheme lend the vehicle a sense of power (the colour scheme will want it back when it sold in grey and black). The lemonax (google it – no meaning at all) metallic exterior paint finish is perfectly tailored to the interior colour highlights. The colour and material concept underscores the outdoor look with glossy black nappa leather and the use of carbon-style black embossed leather surfaces. To ensure the seats provide lateral support in all handling situations and in any terrain, the seat side bolsters are trimmed with black leather that offers extremely good grip and has a pleasantly soft touch and feel.
The X-Class: powerful engine, high ride comfort, and exemplary safety (you’re on your own now, I can’t read any more of this material. The bit about Stockholm is not made clear at any point. Good night.)
As is the norm for Mercedes-Benz, customers of the X-Class will be able to choose from different equipment scopes (delete “scopes”, please) to customise the exterior and interior. In addition, the premium brand will develop a special range of accessories for the pickup, for example bed covers and various styling elements. Thanks to the tried and proven modular strategy, a host of interior components that customers know and appreciate from the C-Class and V-Class will be found in the X-Class – from the perfectly finished high-quality materials and the infotainment system to the ergonomic seating comfort. As a result, the pickup will offer the “welcome home” feeling typical of the brand, and define a new level of comfort and value appeal in the segment of mid-size pickups.
The X-Class will also set new standards in the segment with regard to connected life. Thanks to the communication module with on-board SIM card, it will be possible to use the extensive Mercedes me connect services. Drivers can connect with their pickup by smartphone, tablet or PC at any time and from anywhere. For example, to send navigation destinations to the vehicle or query where the pickup is parked and how much fuel is in the tank. In addition to these optional remote online services, standard services such as accident recovery, maintenance management and breakdown management will also be available.
Variety will likewise distinguish the engine range. The top-of-the-line model will be powered by a V6 diesel in combination with 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive. The high-torque engine will provide high driving dynamics on the road and off the road. The all-wheel-drive system will combine an electronic traction system, a transfer case with reduction gear, and two differential locks. The traction system and the electrically operated on-demand differential locks channel the power to where traction is best. Under extreme off-road conditions, the rear differential and the inter-axle differential can be locked. This will make it possible to safely master difficult obstacles and inclines.
The powerful drive system and the tough ladder-type frame will make a payload of more than 1.1 ton and a towing capacity of up to 3.5 tons possible. Enough power for transporting some four cubic metres of firewood on the pickup bed and a sail boat hooked up to the trailer coupling, for example. At the same time, the specially constructed suspension with wide axles, a five-link rear axle with coil springs, and a precisely calibrated spring/damper set-up will ensure a high ride comfort – on the road and off the road. The pickup bearing the three-pointed star will impress with precise steering, a comfortable ride, and agile cornering. It will absorb bumps in a superior fashion, making it a perfect fit for the urban environment.
Like all Mercedes vehicles, the pickup will be distinguished by exemplary safety. Modern driver assistance systems based on cameras, radar and ultrasound sensors will support and relieve the driver in many situations, and in so doing equally enhance safety and comfort. A host of assistance systems will already come as standard.
The Mercedes among pickups: focus on five customer groups
The X-Class will combine the strengths of a pickup with the value appeal, comfort, driving fun, and safety that distinguish the vehicles bearing the Mercedes star. As a result, the Mercedes-Benz pickup will bridge the gap between commercial and private and between urban and rural use. It will consequently appeal not only to pickup owners wishing for more car-like characteristics, performance, safety, and comfort, but also and above all to people who drive a passenger car, SUV or van. Extensive market research studies conducted by Mercedes-Benz with potential customers in the target markets bear this out.
Mid-size pickups currently have the largest share of the total vehicle market in Australia with 14.1 percent. Argentina comes close behind with 11.6 percent. This means that in these countries, one out of every eight registered vehicles is a pickup in the one-ton category. In Brazil, mid-size pickups have a share of almost five percent of the total vehicle market. That figure is 0.5 percent in Germany, 1.3 percent in Great Britain, 1.4 percent in Turkey, and 0.8 percent in Russia.
Based on its market research studies, Mercedes-Benz has identified five customer groups for the X-Class, which are of different relevance in the individual countries.
One important target group is constituted by families with an active lifestyle and an affinity to premium products. They use the pickup mostly for commuting to work, for shopping, taking the kids to school or sports activities, for weekend trips, and vacation. The key markets are Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and South Africa.
Another target group for the X-Class are successful adventurers, who live in an urban environment and participate in outdoor sports such as skiing or riding jet skis, or have their own boat. They need a comfortable premium vehicle for everyday use that at the same time offers sufficient cargo space and towing capacity for their recreational equipment. The top markets are Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Great Britain, and Germany.
In addition, the Mercedes-Benz pickup will have the potential to inspire trend-conscious individualists with an affinity to premium products. They lead an independent lifestyle and want a vehicle outside the mainstream that underscores their personality and status with a unique design. Independent individualists use the pickup as an “everyday vehicle” in the city, for evening and weekend activities, and for sporting events. The key markets for this target group are Germany, Great Britain, South Africa, and Brazil.
The fourth customer group comprises business owners such as building contractors, architects, and service providers who want to use their pickup for commercial and private purposes: that is as a comfortable company car for customer meetings, which is equally perfect for transporting customers and employees as well as tools and building materials, as an “everyday vehicle”, and as a vehicle for weekend activities. Significant markets for business owners are Germany, Great Britain, Australia, and Argentina.
Landowners, such as cattle ranchers in Argentina, soy bean farmers in Brazil or vintners in South Africa, also use their pickup for commercial and private purposes. They need a vehicle that on the one hand takes them through unpaved terrain and has sufficient cargo and towing capacity. On the other hand, it must be suitable for driving to customer and supplier meetings as well as for use as an “everyday vehicle” for the family.
Production cooperation with Renault-Nissan
The market launch of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class in Europe will begin in late 2017. The new model series will be positioned in the segment at an attractive price. The pickup will be manufactured in a production cooperation with the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Production for the European, Australian and South African markets will start at the Nissan plant in Barcelona, Spain, in 2017. The X-Class for the Latin American market will roll off the assembly lines at the Renault plant in Cordoba, Argentina, starting in 2018.
With the X-Class, Daimler AG and the Renault-Nissan Alliance expand their strategic cooperation which began six years ago. This affords Mercedes-Benz fast and cost-efficient entrance to the fast-growing segment of mid-size pickups. In addition, both companies benefit from optimal utilisation of the production capacity. Nissan is the second-largest manufacturer of mid-size pickups with a payload of one ton in the world, and can look back on more than 80 years of experience in producing and marketing these types of vehicles.