NEW YORK -- Mercedes-Benz USA will decide by year end whether to sell a pickup being developed for other markets.
"We said to Stuttgart, 'We are open, and let us assess the market,'" Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, said in an interview at the auto show here. "If that leads to us saying 'green light,' then we will bring it."
The Mercedes midsize pickup would be positioned here as a luxury passenger vehicle, rather than as a commercial vehicle as it will be elsewhere. It would be sold by the brand's entire 372-dealership U.S. network. Mercedes has a 257-dealership U.S. commercial vehicle network that handles the Sprinter van.
"Not every pickup in the U.S. is going to job sites. Just drive around Greenwich, Conn., and see how many pickups there are," Cannon said, referring to the wealthy community known for its ritzy homes and hedge-fund companies. "You realize this is not a demographic that is showing up with their work boots on job sites. Those sales are taken care of by the domestics."
The pickup was announced by parent company Daimler AG in late March. Few details are known except that it will be built by 2020 and will be aimed at four markets: Europe, Latin America, Australia and South Africa.
Cannon said he has seen a picture of the design and acknowledges that "officially it was approved without U.S. volume."
If Mercedes-Benz USA decides by year end to sell the pickup, there will be enough time to homologate it and build it to U.S. crash standards, he said.
"For a Mercedes-Benz household that has a lot of stuff or a lot of kids or they want to tow the boat -- we could offer something to customers who are already luxury-predisposed," Cannon said.
Cannon said the pickup would be a niche vehicle, suggesting sales of about 10,000 a year to give dealers sufficient stock. "This is the largest pickup market in the world," he said. "We would not go through this exercise for 1,000 [pickups]. To give two or five to each dealer does not make sense."
Cannon said: "We have had pickup discussions for 15 years in this company. One sacred cow was bringing in the Sprinter, a big old boxy thing that's aimed at plumbers and electricians and carries the three-pointed star."
"We have obviously overcome that, and it is a terrific product that is adding profitability to our dealers. And it delivers. It is a Mercedes-Benz."