A Mercedes-developed four wheel drive system, a mix of Benz and Nissan engines, and everything from a workhorse through to a top-spec model are on the agenda for the Mercedes-Benz ute when it arrives.
But don’t rush to your local Mercedes-Benz dealer just yet. Development work on the ute is ongoing, and we won’t see the results for a few more years.
That’s the word from Mercedes-Benz Australia’s senior PR manager, David McCarthy, who spoke with TMR at the recent GLE SUV and Coupe launch.
“My understanding is, there’ll be a range of engines, but whether they’re all Benz, or whether there’s Nissan in there, I honestly don’t know at the moment.” Mr. McCarthy said.
“I know the engineers are doing a lot of work on it, and the 4Matic system will be ours and it will be a Mercedes product.”
Despite coming as something of a surprise when it was announced, the Mercedes load-hauler is a natural next-step for the brand’s commercial vehicle division.
While the idea of a workhorse with a three-pointed star may seem foreign to some buyers, strong van sales have encouraged Mercedes-Benz to follow in the footsteps of the Volkswagen Amarok.
“Obviously Australia is one of the important markets and we have regular meetings in Germany about it, and we feel pretty confident that it’s going to do some good volume for us.” Mr. McCarthy enthused.
When asked if any of the development work for the new ute was occurring here in Australia Mr. McCarthy wouldn't be drawn on an answer, but was unable to hide the smile on his face.
As for hopes of seeing a version wearing the lauded AMG badge, it seems unlikely Mercedes-Benz will go down that path. Global demand will see the needs of trade customers answered first.
The extensive engineering being undertaken by Mercedes-Benz in the ute product means that for the time being low volume variants are off the table for now. That isn’t to say that an AMG couldn’t join the range later, particularly if the as-yet unsigned North American market puts its hand up for the pick-up.
“Never say never, but I think there would be a market for a sportier version, for sure. But other than trim and stuff, I don’t think it’s in the mix at the moment.” Mr. McCarthy continued.
“The engineering resource is limited in what we can do, you can’t do everything, so you’re going to concentrate on the models that will sell in volume.”
“It’s not confirmed for the US, they’ve said no, but they still have time. They haven’t made a decision, and the US you would think is a market [for an AMG model], with things like the Raptor, but without that market I think it would be pretty hard to get the case up.”
Mr. McCarthy was also bullish about the expected ‘toughness’ and drivability of the new ute.
“It is being developed by our van division who do have a lot of experience with that sort of cab-chassis market, with Sprinter.
“They’ve got a lot of experience with commercial vehicles, and making them very capable, very dynamic, nice to drive, so that gives me a lot of confidence that the guys know what they’re doing.”
As part of Daimler’s growing involvement with Renault-Nissan, the ute will be underpinned by the NP300 Navara. Earlier this month Renault showed their version, the Alaskan, which closely follows the styling of the Navara, with some unique front sheet metal.
Mercedes-Benz is expected to distance itself further from the Navara and Alaskan with unique bodywork and interiors, however we won’t know the full extent of the changes for a while yet.
Buyers will be offered the ute through both Passenger and Commercial sales channels.
“Just as we have Valente and V-class that are a crossover product between the two divisions, this will be the same” Mr McCarthy explained.
“There’ll be a tool-of-trade version, and a mid, and a higher spec.”
“There will be a lot of people that are already in the brand that will have a use for it, whether its for towing or just for carrying stuff, it’ll be interesting to see.”
For now the range of engines and variants remains under wraps, and price and positioning for the new pick-up will be confirmed closer to launch, but it seems Mercedes-Benz is leaving no stone unturned in the quest to deliver the right product for tradies and farmers globally.