In a strange turn of events, it has become apparent that not everything automotive giants touch turns to gold.
King Midas obviously was absent when the suits at Mercedes-Benz decided to have a crack at a mid-sized dual-cab ute. Less than three years after its debut, Mercedes-Benz has confirmed the X-Class will be discontinued in May of this year.
Despite a disproportionate amount of hype, the X-Class never really found its feet either globally or locally.
When the X-Class was first revealed, the brand trumpeted itself as the “first premium manufacturer of a pickup.” It was also keen to announce interest was high. Unfortunately, the initial interest couldn’t be converted into sales. For context, in 2019, just over 15,000 X-Class sales were reported globally. In Australia, Mercedes-Benz could secure only 2126 sales.
In hindsight, Mercedes-Benz wasn’t ready to enter the pick-up market. Unlike German rival Volkswagen, the company didn’t invest in a bespoke platform. Instead, to keep the costs down it chose the Nissan Navara as the donor vehicle which instantly took some of the shine off the three-pointed star.
The fatal mistake was not taking the time to offer something different when the ute was originally launched. It offered nothing substantially better than what was already available from Toyota and Ford.
To compound the lack of uniqueness, in a crazy move, Mercedes sent the X-Class out to bat with an underdone Nissan powertrain, instead of its in-house turbo-diesel V6 which was held back for 12 months.
It’s hard to describe the X-Class as anything more than a lazy effort from a brand old enough to know better. It was left to the badge to carry the weight.
Our concern was Mercedes would follow lazy with greedy and put too high a premium on the X-Class effectively putting it out of reach for the majority of buyers. When it came to the entry-level variants, this turned out to be incorrect. The ‘proper’ X-Class X350d flagship was about right at $80k which put it in the firing line of the Ranger Raptor and Ram 1500.
Down Under, there are plenty of buyers, both business and private, happy to part with big dollars to get the ute they want, not the ute they need.
While we welcome the attempt, ultimately, the decision to send out a Navara in a party frock wasn't persuasive enough to get image-conscious buyers to open their wallet.
Had Mercedes-Benz put in the time and cash to develop their own ute, a genuine luxury offering loaded with the brand’s new technology, it could have been a roaring success, even with a higher price.
Of course, that’s just speculation. For now, what we know for sure is a premium badge is never a guarantee of success, and the X-Class is on its way to being a collector's item.