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Benz ute benefits from Aussie know-how

On the way: The Mercedes-Benz pick-up is still years off but the company's local arm is sending feedback to Germany to help with its development.

Australia providing feedback to Mercedes-Benz for unnamed pick-up

28 Jul 2015

THE Australian arm of Mercedes-Benz Vans is sending feedback to its German headquarters from local consumers who are pushing for a powerful V8 version of the still unnamed Benz-badged pick-up.

The forthcoming workhorse is due later this decade, in about 2018 or 2019, and will be built off the NP300 Nissan Navara platform at Benz factories in Spain and Latin America, with Australian-spec versions likely to come from Spain.

Speaking at the Vito and Valente van launch in New South Wales last week, Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia and New Zealand managing director Diane Tarr quipped about the involvement of Mercedes performance arm AMG in a petrol V8 version of the pick-up, as well as helping the German head office understand the V8 utility culture in Australia.

“So much feedback comes in that is typically Australian, 'c’mon guys we need a V8,' so I've thrown that at them in Europe and asked the question, we'll keep pushing,” she said.

Ms Tarr said she had seen the production version in clay form earlier this year and was impressed with the look of the vehicle.

“It's through and through a Mercedes-Benz vehicle,” she said.

“We looked at our research, looking at the viability of a pick-up, but there were some traditionalists that were concerned about the brand but we have LCVs, trucks and buses. It doesn't taint the brand, it's just different thinking and the web traffic when we announced, it was tremendous. We are super excited about it.”

The German automotive giant has been paying attention to the launch of both the new Nissan Navara as well as other premium brands' utility offerings in order to learn from those experiences – perhaps the absence of an automatic transmission in the early incarnations of the Volkswagen Amarok, and concerns over the coil-sprung rear end suspension of the Nissan among them.

“We have to make sure we bring a seamless product and learn from others who have brought in a luxury pick-up, what did and didn’t work.

“We've fed those type of things (Nissan’s coil spring suspension) back to Germany for consideration. It's still early stages, but whenever we see and hear that we raise those considerations going forward,” she said.

“It’s great to be able to have those considerations. We have a little more clout because we are to be a major pick-up market.”

When the pick-up was announced in March this year, Ms Tarr confirmed local involvement in the project, including Australia and New Zealand testing.

“We have been working on this project for a number of years and Australia and New Zealand have been an integral part of the program from the very beginning,” she said at the time. “We will be conducting product testing in Australia over the next couple of years.” Despite Daimler AG board member and head of Mercedes-Benz research and development Thomas Weber recently stating that the pick-up would use only Benz powertrains, Ms Tarr confirmed the line-up will share some engines from the NP300 Navara but added that it will also be offered with a turbo-diesel V6 from the German marque’s stable.

Ms Tarr said while the drivetrains are yet to be finalised for Australia – which is deemed a major market for the ute – a Benz V6 would be part of the line-up, with global speculation ongoing about diesel and petrol four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, six-speed manuals, seven-speed autos as well as rear-wheel and four-wheel drive.

“We will have some shared with Nissan … we’ll definitely bring a Mercedes-Benz V6,” she said.

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