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Exclusive: Mercedes G300 Professional coming to Aus

Ready to fire: The CFA is trialling a lightweight fire truck based on the Mercedes G300 Professional cab-chassis and the tough G will go on sale to the public at dealerships early next year.

G-Wagon G300 Professional cab-chassis, wagon heading to Benz showrooms


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9 Aug 2016

MERCEDES-BENZ is preparing to make a significant assault on the hardcore off-road wagon and utility market segments in Australia, offering a newly established G-Wagon G300 Professional range through dealerships from the first quarter of 2017.

Stripped of armour plating and other military hardware, the new ‘civilian-spec’ G300 Professional models are based on the all-terrain vehicles developed specifically for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as part of Daimler AG’s 15-year contract forged with the federal government in 2008.

Up until now, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific has offered the brawny and utilitarian G300 cab-chassis exclusively to government departments and large fleet operators through its Melbourne head office.

This latest move, however, will see the cab-chassis and a new wagon variant delivered to dealerships for sale to the general public, joining the two existing higher-spec G-Class wagons – the G350d and G63 AMG – but as unique and more affordable alternatives that could bring the German prestige brand as many as 500 additional sales per year.

The rifle mounts might be deleted, but the new range will also offer some special ADF-spec customisation options, such as a walk-on bonnet.

Speaking exclusively to GoAuto, Mercedes-Benz Aust/Pac public relations, product and corporate communications senior manager David McCarthy explained that the cab-chassis would offer more customers a blank canvas for retrofitting, while the wagon had unique advantages.

“There will be a cab-chassis so you’ve got the versatility to put on the back whatever you like, but there will also be a wagon,” he said. “The wagon will be a four-seater – two buckets in the front and two in the rear – the same as the ADF.

“Because of the GVM (gross vehicle mass) of the vehicle and the seating capacity, it doesn’t pay luxury car tax and this has had a significant impact on the price.” Pricing is yet to be finalised and will be dependent on variant and some specification options, but Mr McCarthy said the wagon was likely to “have a one in front of it”, indicating a price exceeding $100,000.

That would put the G300 Professional versions at the more affordable end of the G-Class range, below the G350d (priced from $163,900, plus on-road costs) and the G63 AMG, which starts at $233,900.

“I’d be surprised if we don’t do 500 in a full year,” Mr McCarthy said. “It does depend on availability but we’ve been given this capacity because we are a good market.” Exact Australian specifications are yet to be finalised but the local model was specially tailored for our market to include dual front airbags, electronic stability control and ABS brakes – all of which vehicles in the light truck segment are not legally required to have.

“We didn’t want to bring the vehicle in until we could actually equip it as we thought it should be equipped,” said Mr McCarthy. “It needed to have two airbags and ESP. The safety message for us is pretty important.” The Professional range wears the G300 moniker to denote its use of a 135kW/400Nm 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine that sends power to all four wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission.

The same engine is already in service on Australian soil under the bonnet of the Mercedes Sprinter van, which is available in a number of configurations, including specially converted ambulances.

Potential rivals for the G300 Professional are thin on the ground, but Toyota’s LandCruiser 70 Series – available in ute and Troop Carrier body styles – is the closest no-nonsense competitor. The 70 Series has a larger V8 diesel than G300s, but its 3900kg GVM cannot match the Mercedes’ substantial 4490kg GVM.

In fact, the G-Wagon’s front axle maximum of 2200kg and 2800kg rear axle limit totals 5000kg GVM, but Mercedes deliberately under-clocked the official figure below the car licence limit of 4500kg so owners would not need a special licence.

“With this vehicle it’s not about criticising its opposition, this vehicle is so unique it really doesn’t have any,” Mr McCarthy said.

Another comparison and rival could be the $139,500 Ram 2500 which has the same GVM but is not available as a cab-chassis variant. The Ram 3500 has a higher GVM but can only be driven with a light rigid licence.

Mercedes-Benz Cars southern region corporate sales manager Ross Crabtree said the new G300 Professional range would appeal to both long-standing fans of the G-Class and customers who had been unable to find something as tough in the market.

“The initial core customer will be diehard fans who have watched the story of the G-Wagon over the last 40 or so years,” he said. “They haven’t been able to have access to the vehicle here in Australia, where it’s directly supported.

“And people who are looking for a particularly robust vehicle with additional carrying capacity, so I see farmers taking this on board because of its additional payload capacity.

“It’s the total package that comes from the factory, out of the box, ready to go, whereas most of the competitors in this space – they require further third-party upgrades and even then it doesn’t even get close to what this vehicle can do.” A number of mining companies are also talking to Mercedes to secure a fleet, which would be arranged under the existing process via the company’s head office and not the dealership network.

Mr Crabtree explained that the decision to offer the G-Wagon through dealerships was partly as a result of a deal to supply 300 of the tough trucks to the federal department of environment, land, water and planning (DELWP), and the model’s presence on local roads had attracted significant attention.

One example has also been retrofitted with firefighting equipment and is currently under evaluation by the CFA.

“The project with DELWP has been nearly five years in the making. It hasn’t been an easy process but I think it will have been a worthwhile process,” Mr Crabtree said.

“We’ve got the Sprinter as the vehicle of choice with our national ambulance services and we would love to see the G-Wagon cab-chassis become the ultralight fire truck.

“It would be cool to have kids play with Mercedes-Benz ambulances and little Mercedes-Benz fire trucks. I like that idea and in a retail sense it will be a nice story, too.” With 500 sales forecast in a full year, the G-Wagon will not be a volume seller but Mr Crabtree said the sheer presence of the imposing vehicles in showrooms would help potential customers understand the purpose of the specialised model better than browsing spec sheets.

“People need to see it,” he said. “I don’t see this being the centrepiece next to a S63 Coupe and A45 AMG, but to get the appreciation for it they have to see it.

“The sales team and I would like to see it on a showroom floor because I think that’s where it does it justice. How many and whether the dealers are prepared to take that punt – that’s up to them.” While the G300 is closely related to the versions sold to the Australian armed forces, the civilian version will not include some features such as armoured sections.

But Mr Crabtree said a number of options would allow customers to customise their vehicle.

“It’s more closely related to the military counterpart than it is to a W463 (G-Class SUV) and the G350d,” he said.

“Rather than having rifle mounts on the bonnet, it might be a walk-on bonnet for example for more civilian-related purposes and those off-road enthusiasts.”

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