Nearly two years ago, Mercedes-Benz announced that it would add a midsize pickup truck to its product line, but that the truck was not intended for the U.S. market. The company may be changing its mind, however, as Mercedes believes the U.S. market for midsize pickups appears to be growing.
In the United States, the midsize pickup segment is represented by the Tacoma from Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon from General Motors Co. (GM), the Nissan Frontier and Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s (HMC) Ridgeline. In January, all five models sold a total of 27,519 units, according to Kelley Blue Book, with nearly half that total going to the Tacoma. The average transaction price in January rose 2.4% year over year to $32,387 for the midsize trucks.
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There could be another competitor entering the market as well. Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) is also planning the reintroduction of its Ranger midsize pickup to the U.S. market in 2019.
The Mercedes pickup, dubbed the X-class, is based on the new 2017 Nissan Navara that will go on sale next month in Asia and Europe, but not in North America. A 2016 version with a 2.3-liter diesel engine has a reported base price of around $54,500. This is definitely a luxury-class price.
If Mercedes parent decides to sell the X-class in the United States, it would require a new, local factory to produce it, according to Volker Mornhinweg, the head of the Mercedes Van division, because the Nissan plant in Spain and Renault plant in Argentina will be operating at capacity.
Mornhinweg also noted:
In the past year the mid-sized truck market has come back a bit. General Motors is launching a mid-sized truck. We are watching developments very closely, and we will take a decision at the appropriate time.
He likely misspoke and meant Ford, not GM, but the larger point is that the total market for midsize pickups really hasn't changed much since March of 2015 when Mercedes announced the X-class. In February of 2015, the five midsize pickups on the market sold a total of 27,690 units, essentially the same number as were sold last month. And if the price point for the X-class is nearer $55,000 than say, $35,000, does that really warrant building a new plant? Time will tell.