At the global debut of the X-Class, Mercedes-Benz’ first medium pickup, head of Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles division, Volker Mornhinweg, told Australian media that buyers shouldn’t be fixated on the dual-cab’s Nissan Navara origins.
“In the LCV business it’s a common approach to work together with partners, all over the place. A lot of companies are working together quite successfully.” Mr Mornhinweg explained.
“Partnering in the passenger car segment is not that common, but in the LCV segment it’s quite common, therefore it’s a kind of natural move also to think about pickups, and for us we had a target that we would like to introduce our product to market in a very short term notice.”
Some of the partners he refers to include Volkswagen, whose previous generation Crafter was based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter large van, as well as another Renault-Nissan Alliance collaboration overseas, which sees the Renault Kangoo sold as the Mercedes-Benz Citan in Europe.
Rather than a badge-engineered product (the term applied to mostly-unchanged cars that sell under a number of marques), Mornhinweg was keen to point out the X-Class’ unique interior and exterior styling, engineering, and development work.
“If for example, we had have done just as a double-badge, which you also see in the LCV business, okay then we have a different discussion,” Mornhigweg said in relation to the relationship between the Navara and the X-Class.
“We said, 'okay what do we have to do to achieve the description of what we would like to achieve', and this [the X-Class] is what we have done. In some parts it makes sense to work together with our partners and take their parts, yes, why shouldn’t we do that because if this is not a differentiation which can a customer really feel, see, whatever, why should I change it?”
But he wouldn’t be drawn on how much beneath-the surface content the X-Class retained in relation to the donor Navara.
During the launch of the X-Class it was revealed that the engine, transmissions and four wheel drive systems of four-cylinder versions of the new ute are all supplied by Nissan, rather than being adapted from Mercedes’ own range. The ladder chassis from the Navara is also carried over, with additional bracing to handle the available V6 engine’s additional torque, with the revisions applied to all X-Class variants.
Mercedes-Benz has also created a unique, wider rear axle, wider front suspension wishbones, with spring rates and dampers tuned to Mercedes specifications. Electronic stability control tuning is also unique to the Mercedes product.
In the case of the V6-powered X350d the engine and transmission come from within Mercedes’ own parts catalog, as does the permanent four wheel drive system. All models feature a vastly different interior, with dash, door-cards, steering wheel, and seats that differ from those used by Nissan, though internal components that can’t be seen are more likely to bear the Nissan brand.
Despite the intensive re-engineering program Mornhinweg wouldn’t be drawn on how much of the X-Class Mercedes would be able to call its own.
“We do not count percentage because I feel your approach is totally different to ours,” he deferred. “You always ask me what is different to what, we were more focussed on ‘what is the competition set in the market for pickups?’
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