Initially Mercedes-Benz Australia will only offer dual cab ute versions of the X-Class.
The all-new Mercedes-Benz X-Class is officially on sale, with the four-cylinder models kicking things off ahead of a V6 model arriving in the final quarter of 2018.
The company says its German headquarters regards Australia as a “major market” for the Spanish-built ute, and already the local arm has received more than 9000 registrations of interest.
Scott Williams, Mercedes-Benz Vans product and project manager, said the X-Class is arriving at an ideal time in the Australian automotive landscape, with ute sales pushing forward in leaps and bounds.
“About 17 per cent of the market is utes at the moment, and dual cab utes are 75 per cent of that,” Mr Williams said. “So last year in Australia we did nearly 160,000 dual cab utes, which is up from about 86,000 just six years ago.
“So an explosive 83 per cent growth in dual cabs in that six years. We believe that sort of volume will provide us with potential for utes to be nearly as much as vans in our overall Mercedes-Benz portfolio,” he said, which would equate to about 5000 units per year, once all the derivatives are in showrooms.
According to Mr Williams, dealers in rural areas are taking an unexpected amount of stock in holding of the entry-level Pure model, which is available in manual and automatic, two- and four-wheel drive, and with a cab-chassis or pick-up body. In short, it’s the most versatile variant in the mix.
“We have had, already, dealers buy up good numbers of the base grade,” he said. “Which was pretty gratifying.”
Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia managing director Diane Tarr said that there are a lot of enquiries coming from inside – and outside – the Mercedes-Benz brand umbrella.
“About 69 per cent of those expressions of interest are from people outside of the brand,” Ms Tarr said. “So that’s an indication of the magnitude of interest. And of those, people in trades or construction make up about 40 per cent.
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class has been widened by 70mm over its Nissan Navara donor model.
“What’s also interesting is the skew of metro and rural interest,” Ms Tarr said. “Around about 60 per cent is coming from what we classify as ‘rural’, so that’s a really interesting insight for us.”
Initially Mercedes-Benz Australia will only offer dual cab ute versions of the X-Class, with the entry-level Pure and mid-range Progressive both being offered with either a cab-chassis configuration or in the standard pick-up body; the high-end Power is sold purely as a pick-up.
But with a big potential take-up in areas outside of the major cities that may change, according to Mercedes-Benz Australia head of product, Sabina Wagner.
“Our plan is to start with the double-cab ute, and basically then see how we go in the market, and based on customer feedback and requirements, we would go into evaluating the single cab again. That’s depending on the feedback. But right now, we’ll start with the double cab,” Wagner said.