Just two years ago, Mercedes-Benz launched its first premium mid-sized bakkie, the X-Class. However, it failed to garner the following it promised and, according to parent company Daimler, production will cease by May 2019.
According to Automotive News Europe, only 16 700 units were sold in 2018 in Europe, Australia and South Africa combined. Only 973 units were sold in South Africa in 2019 – versus the Toyota Hilux, which sold 40 934 units.
So, what went wrong?
Launched just two years ago, the X-Class was positioned to fill the gap in Mercedes-Benz’s commercial market offering … the globally popular bakkie truck. As Dieter Zetsche, former chairman of the Board of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, said at the time: “With the Mercedes-Benz pick-up, we will close one of the last gaps in our portfolio. The X-Class will set new standards in a growing segment.”
The company partnered with Renault-Nissan to develop its own bakkie using the same platform beneath the Nissan Navara and Renault Alaskan, but with Mercedes-Benz coil-spring rear suspension instead of traditional load-carrying leaf springs.
Mercedes-Benz thought this would be ideal to deliver the ride and handling expected by buyers of the brand, while offering the load and towing capabilities of a light truck. Mercedes-Benz said at the time that using an existing platform would also enable the company to bring the vehicle to market in half the time.
These fairly cosmetic changes saved Mercedes-Benz from having to create an entirely new bakkie, as most of its budget went into designing a different interior and exterior look to that of the Navara – and the X-Class does look significantly different. However, a few interior similarities remained, and potential buyers were not convinced to pay a premium price for what they believed to be a glorified Nissan Navara.
Also, the Navara is not as popular as the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. This partnership could, therefore, have added to the failure of the fledgling pick-up. It also didn’t help that there were several recalls, including a footwell light that could come loose and jam under the brake pedal.
Ultimately, however, many believe that the price of the X-Class was simply too high – especially considering that competition in the bakkie arena is fierce. In South Africa, X-Class prices start at R646 071 – versus R504 500 for a Nissan Navara and R413 500 for a Toyota Hilux.
Interestingly, the X-Class was also never offered to the United States (US) market, despite the country being “truck mad”. (Yes, of course, the X-Class would have had to be supersized to sell in the US… but sales there could have been massive.)
Whatever the reasons were for the dismal sales, one thing is for sure: what could have been a great addition to the Mercedes-Benz commercial market offering will come to an abrupt halt by mid-2020.