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BMW pick-up a step closer to reality

Class distinction: BMW is studying the potential for a ute to rival the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, but punters could be waiting up to five years before the Bavarian pick-up materialises.

Mercedes X-Class-rivalling ute on the cards for BMW, but still five years away

28 Feb 2018

BMW Australia has confirmed its head office in Munich is currently investigating a future one-tonne pick-up range to compete against the likes of the imminent Mercedes-Benz X-Class, as well as the Volkswagen Amarok, Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux.

However, such a vehicle would still be up to five years away, as the company remains quiet on whether it would go it alone like Toyota or follow most competitors and team up with a rival manufacturer.

Speaking to the Australian media at the launch of the all-new X2 compact SUV, BMW Australia chief executive Marc Werner revealed his desire to enter the booming light-truck market, saying it is becoming impossible to ignore the global demand for upmarket one-tonne pick-ups.

“We’ve been very pushy regarding utes and pick-ups,” he said. “We believe that this is something that the company should be looking to. We’ve raised that with (global headquarters), and there are certainly investigations as we speak.

“But it is too early to talk about any results from that analysis. But if there was a ute, we would certainly take it.

“If you look at the market with more than 150,000 utes out of 1.1 million vehicles overall – and I think that segment grew last year by 17 per cent – we cannot close our eyes and neglect it. We cannot neglect market trends.”

Asked if any other company is involved in the pick-up investigation, Mr Werner said that it is “way too early”, adding that he would not say even if he could.

Furthermore, Mr Werner rejected claims that a BMW pick-up would fly in the face of traditional brand values of driver enjoyment and dynamic superiority, revealing that the Munich boffins are more than capable of engineering an appropriately sporty and dynamic pick-up.

“Let me answer the question in the following way,” he explained. “When we launched the E53 (original X5) in 1999, everyone thought ‘that doesn’t go with the BMW DNA’.

“But now we are selling something like 450,000 SUVs on a worldwide basis, so I think at the end of the day, we need to cater for what the customer wants.

“Then the question is, ‘does it fit with the BMW DNA and the BMW brand promise?’ Or ‘are we overstretching the brand?’ “I think that is the core question that needs to be answered. Because from a pure engineering perspective, everything is possible and the sky is the limit.”

As GoAuto reported from the Frankfurt Motor Show last September, BMW’s former head of Asia-Pacific region (and now boss of Africa, Middle East and Russia) Hendrik von Kuenheim declared Mercedes’ X-Class ute “appalling”, stating that the Bavarian brand would never compromise.

“When you look now at our German competitor from Stuttgart, I think that the product is appalling,” he said at the time.

“You would have expected something more serious. This is, for me, and I listened to yesterday some of your (media) colleagues from other countries (saying), ‘Oh that’s very cheap, very plasticky, not very much Mercedes-like, what you would expect?’”

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