Mercedes-Benz is making a pickup truck, and it thinks Americans might want in.
The first vehicles this plan brings to mind are Cadillac’s Escalade EXT and Lincoln’s Blackwood and LT. Despite Americans’ ravenous appetite for pickups, these luxury trucks were hardly big successes. The Lincolns lasted just a few years on the market. The Escalade EXT was discontinued in 2013, after a decent run. Do Americans actually want a Mercedes-badged truck?
Maybe, but let’s step back for a minute. For this vehicle, Americans are an afterthought. The yet-to-be-named, midsize truck is expected in 2020, and it’s aimed primarily at Latin America, South Africa, Australia, and Europe. “There’s a global need for pickups, and we’ve decided that we’re gonna get into that space,” says Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA. “The business case was made without the United States.”
It could be a smart move, says Jack Nerad, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. Mercedes wants to increase sales, and it’s got the necessary global distribution network and name recognition. Its partnership with Nissan, which has extensive pickup experience, could cut development costs. And its commercial business, based around vans and trucks, is “an important part of their overall profit picture, so it makes sense that they would pursue those kinds of opportunities.”
So that part checks out. But Mercedes is evaluating whether it wants to sell the pickup in the US, and says if it does, it will be a luxury vehicle, not a ute. Considering the lackluster history of Lincoln and Cadillac’s luxury pickups, Germany’s foray into the segment seems questionable. Who wants a luxury pickup?
Cannon says it’s not crazy: He sees neighbors in swanky Greenwich, Connecticut driving what he calls full-size “lifestyle pickups”—and thinks they might want something a bit smaller, with a five-pointed star on the hood.
Mercedes may be best known for luxury sedans and sports cars, but it’s spent the last two decades expanding into the crossover market, filling every market niche it can sniff out. That’s how it ended up with vehicles like the GLE Coupe, a small four-door reminiscent of a Chihuahua-Great Dane mix. “A pickup truck is almost mainstream compared to some of the things they’ve put in the marketplace,” says Nerad.
It’s hard to predict how Americans would respond, but it’s not the craziest idea: If Mercedes wants to keep growing—and it does—it’s got to find new segments to conquer. And our love affair with the pickup is tempting territory.