By the time Mercedes Benz hits the market with its X-Class 1-tonne ute in 2018, the Nissan Navara chassis on which it is based, will have worn more different badges than a Chinese-made 12-volt winch. And that might not be the end of it.
Mercedes-Benz’s tie up with the Renault-Nissan alliance will see the X Class as the third vehicle to ride on the NP300 platform originally from the D23 Navara. Late in 2017 we’ll see the Renault Alaskan pick-up which also uses this architecture and shares powertrains and most body panels with the Nissan ute.
But it might not end there. Having just taken a controlling stake in Mitsubishi Motors, Renault-Nissan executives have stated that model sharing will be a key part of the wider alliance. Mitsubishi already has a deal with Fiat Professional to use the chassis and architecture from its Triton one-tonner to build the Fiat Fullback ute.
It would seem wasteful for the alliance to produce more than one body-on-frame platform for one-tonne pick-ups so is it unreasonable to imagine utes from Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Renault and Fiat all riding on the same design in the future?
In other wife-swapping utescapades; Ford has dropped its long association with Mazda to go it alone for the next generation of Ranger ute. Once again this vehicle will be developed in Australia although our Rangers will continue to be made in Thailand. Ford USA has also announced that the next Ranger will go on sale there by the end of the decade and Ford Australia in believed to be involved with development of that vehicle which will be built in Detroit. The development is happening alongside that on our next Ranger which will continue to be sourced from Thailand.
Looking for a fresh bedfellow, Mazda has slipped in with Isuzu for it’s next-gen BT50. Other than that this will be built on the next D-Max architecture, not much has been revealed about the collaboration but expect it to retail Mazda’s styling in line with the latest CX9 and CV5 SUVs
The Mazda tie-up came at a good time for Isuzu as its old mates at General Motors dumped the Japanese brand to go it alone for the Colorado. GM now sells a version of the Colorado as both a Chevrolet and GMC in the US market and rumour has it that the next-gen Colorado will be a shared GM product globally.
That leaves the Toyota Hilux and Volkswagen Amarok as the only two of the mainstream 4x4 ute models to still be single. There’s a gaggle of Chinese and Indian manufacturers out there as well who we’re sure would love to get a hold of that Toyota and VW tech.
All in all it lines us up for interesting times ahead for a 1-tonne ute market that is expected to grow more than 30-per cent over the next 10 years.