News - Mercedes-Benz - X-Class
Australia helped shape Benz X-Class
Mercedes credits detailed market research in Australia in X-Class development
24 Jul 2017
By TIM NICHOLSON in CAPE TOWN
AUSTRALIAN tradies, fishmongers and farmers have helped shape the Mercedes-Benz X-Class ute, with the German automotive giant using the experience of locals to develop its first pick-up.
Benz started looking at the viability of a mid-size pick-up back in 2010 and market research kicked up a gear in 2012 before it signed the deal with Renault-Nissan Alliance to share the underpinnings of the NP300 Navara two years later in 2014.
During the research phase, Mercedes marketing executives headed Down Under to gain a greater insight into the ever popular pick-up segment, which has since grown to be Australia’s second-largest market segment behind small passenger cars.
Last year combined sales of 4x2 and 4x4 pick-ups hit a record 190,760 units, up from 137,184 sales a decade earlier in 2006.
Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia and New Zealand managing director Diane Tarr said the idea behind the local market research was to ensure that any future pick-up would not be “Euro centric” and that it “spoke to and positioned itself to the various audiences that are outside of Europe in the core markets”.
Left: Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia and New Zealand managing director Diane Tarr
“One of the first experiences was of the headquarters colleagues was waking up at 5:30am and heading down to the fish markets in Sydney,” she said at the X-Class international reveal in Cape Town last week.
“And just literally driving around Sydney, Queensland, Melbourne. They were here for many weeks at various times. There were focus groups, a lot of support from colleagues in engraining the real Australian mindset and ute business. But they spent a lot of time driving around and speaking to accessory developers, so there is a lot from an Australian perspective.”
Ms Tarr said that the market research work conducted Down Under has helped boost the global standing of the Australian arm within Mercedes-Benz Vans.
“I think X-Class has presented a greater opportunity for us to have a voice.
With X-Class coming into our market and of course increasing our volume position, we definitely see a greater voice in the business. However, when we look at the current vans business now, we are split into Europe and overseas.
“Already we are not blanketed and outshone by the European market. We certainly have a voice and are a strong contender in the overseas market. And we have a very strong and good relationship with our colleagues at headquarters and they certainly respect us as a market. We deliver what we say we will deliver in terms of our numbers, targets, responsibilities.”
Ms Tarr added that Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia was also providing important information about market requirements for the next-generation Sprinter large van that is due to be revealed late next year.
“Yes we certainly feedback information. With the new Sprinter we have had a lot of dialogue around what we require as a market. And the differences in the markets so they certainly take that on board.”
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