Cars and Concepts

Mercedes pickup won't be a 'fat cowboy truck'

Jay Ramey is an associate editor with Autoweek, a sister publication of Automotive News.

The Mercedes-Benz pickup that isn't a Unimog is coming, and it'll share some underpinnings with the Nissan NP300 Navara pickup, Automotive News Europe reports.

The latest Nissan Navara NP300 1-ton truck made its debut in the metal at the Frankfurt motor show, with Daimler announcing plans to use it as the basis for a yet-unnamed midsize pickup that will be sold in a number of markets under the Mercedes-Benz badge. Renault also previewed a version in the form of the Renault Alaskan concept.

The Mercedes-Benz pickup will be a product of Daimler's technology-sharing alliance with Renault Nissan, with the latter offering the Navara in a number of markets. North America received a version of the Navara as the Nissan Frontier in 1997, though it's prudent to point out that it differed from other versions of the Navara, each of which was tweaked and renamed for just about every market.

"The Mercedes-Benz pickup will contribute nicely to our global growth targets," Mercedes-Benz chief Dieter Zetsche said earlier in the year. "We will enter this segment with our distinctive brand identity and all of the vehicle attributes that are typical of the brand with regard to safety, comfort, powertrains and value."

Mercedes-Benz, for its part, has been dropping hints about the upcoming pickup, with M-B vans head Volker Mornhinweg at one point stating that it wouldn't be a "fat cowboy truck for North America."

Still, Stuttgart is promising an upscale, luxury interior, so we can expect it to be priced north of the Nissan and Renault versions. As for powerplants, they are expected to differ by market, though the Mercedes-Benz version is expected to use its own engines, including diesels. There are certainly more than enough to choose from in the automaker's global parts bin.

Aside from the questions of what engines will power it and whether or not its seats will have a massaging function, the most pressing question for us is whether it will be offered in the U.S.

If it were to be offered in the U.S., it would have to be built here because of the chicken tax, and so far the only two plants that have been confirmed to produce the three trucks are in Argentina and Spain. The plant in Spain is the one that'll produce the Mercedes-Benz truck for the European market, with production expected to start in 2018.

Mercedes-Benz has demonstrated a greater willingness to offer vans in the U.S. with the arrival of the Metris as the most affordable model in the lineup, but we've yet to see them extend that to trucks.

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