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Ford not worried about Merc X-Class competition

Range-topper: The incoming Mercedes-Benz X-Class is expected to be priced on the higher end of the pick-up spectrum and compete on cost with high-level offerings of Ford’s Ranger.

Top-spec Ford Ranger to hold its own against incoming Mercedes X-Class pick-up

Ford logo5 Oct 2017

By TUNG NGUYEN

FORD Australia’s best-selling model, the Ranger workhorse, will face more competition next year in the crowded pick-up market with the launch of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, but the Blue Oval is unperturbed by its incoming German rival.

Speaking to GoAuto during the kick-off of the brand’s Driving Skills for Life program this year, Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman said he did not expect the Nissan-built, Mercedes-badged, 4x4 dual-cab X-Class to encroach on the Ranger’s territory.

“Naturally, we’re interested in what they are going to put out in the top-end of the market,” he said. “I think it would be odd if they were to come in and try to compete with the likes of what we have.”

Ford’s 4x4 dual-cab Ranger line-up kicks off from $43,590 before on-road costs for the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel XL cab chassis and currently tops out at $59,590 for the 3.2-litre diesel five-pot Wildtrak. However, the new flagship Raptor is due to launch mid next year with an expected $80,000 price point and boosted performance.

While pricing for Mercedes’ three-variant X-Class range is yet to be revealed, the premium workhorse is rumoured to land in Australian showrooms starting with a circa-$50,000 pricetag for the entry-level X220d Pure cab chassis.

With three trim levels on offer (Pure, Progressive and Power) as well as three turbo-diesel engine choices (X220d, X250d and X350d) and two bodystyles (cab chassis and pick-up) the X-Class will field a healthy variant line-up to try and steal sales away from the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux.

Topping the Mercedes range will be the X350d Power pick-up, sporting a 190kW/550Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6, which is expected to land around the $70-75,000 mark.

Mr Whickman said he was not worried about buyers potentially cross-shopping similarly priced utes with the Ranger, as the Ford model offers a lot of value for money in higher-spec variants, and that Mercedes would first need to overcome a perception challenge.

“I think they’re going to have some challenges to try and take it from the Nissan piece to the Mercedes piece,” he said.

“I think that’s probably going to be their biggest challenges to try and convince people it’s worth the trip because I suspect they are going to want a lot of money for their vehicle.”

Last month, Ford topped the Australian new-car sales charts with 4318 4x2 and 4x4 Rangers sold, beating its Japanese Toyota HiLux rival by 496 units.

To the end of September, Ford has sold 32,620 units of the Ranger, a lift of 5680 units – or about 21.1 per cent – year-on-year, and accounts for about 58.5 per cent of the brand’s total 2017 sales.

Last year, Ford found 36,934 new homes for its Ranger, enough to be the fourth-best-selling Australian vehicle in 2016, while Toyota’s HiLux topped the charts with 42,104 units sold.

Although Mr Whickman did not expect the X-Class to impact Ranger sales, he welcomed the new competitor into the booming pick-up segment.

“We respect all the competition out there, I respect the competition out there,” he said. “Good luck to them … it’s a tough market here and there are no slouches.”

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