THE Mercedes-Benz GLT pick-up will be the safest, most powerful and most luxurious ute in its class when it arrives in Australia later this decade, says the man responsible for its development.
It’ll also undergo extensive Australian testing and eventually be offered in a range of body styles, including one fettled by Merc’s performance arm, AMG.
Speaking to Wheels ahead of tomorrow’s Geneva Motor Show, the head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, Volker Mornhinweg (pictured), revealed he plans to visit Australia before local testing starts sometime next year.
“I’m coming next month to Australia to have a look,” he said. “Sure it’s the plan to test the ute there. When you develop a product you have to test it everywhere you plan to launch it.”
Expected to be badged as the Mercedes-Benz GLT, the ute will share underpinnings with the new Nissan Navara and the planned Renault Alaskan, and be built at Nissan's production facilities in Argentina and Spain. It’ll also deliver the high level of quality and dynamics that customers expect of a Mercedes, says Mornhinweg, despite its modest, workhorse underpinnings.
“The clear plan and target is to make a pick-up that is a Mercedes-Benz, with our philosophy and our genes,” said Mornhinweg. “You can be sure it will be an outstanding product, I’m totally convinced of this.
“We will develop the first premium pickup, but on the other hand we want to show it has real driving dynamics, and this focus I think will be something new for this segment.”
Pitched as a direct rival to the popular Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger, the GLT will also arrive bristling with all of in the current safety systems in the Mercedes-Benz arsenal, leading Mornhinweg to confirm that the GLT will be the safest car in its class.
It’s also likely to be the most powerful, courtesy of a suite of petrol and diesel engines that could also gain attention from the performance boffins at AMG.
“We will have a very performance orientated and powerful product,” said Mornhinweg. “If that means it has to be an AMG, then that is something we will have to wait and see. AMG has lots of different levels of performance and design elements, so this is something we will consider.”
As for body styles, the GLT will first be offered solely as a richly trimmed dual-cab, though Mornhinweg confirmed plans to expand the range once the initial model is established.
“We will start on the premium side, then see what our customers want,” he said. “That could go down to a pure [and less expensive] workhorse model with a single cab, for example.
“There’s also the opportunity to develop model lines. You can say, OK this one is more of an all-rounder, this one is more heavy duty and this one is more comfort orientated.”
There won’t, however, be a wagon body style variant, similar to the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest.
Mercedes will export the GLT to Australia, South Africa and Latin America, although our market is tipped to be one of the most lucrative. Sales of four-wheel-drive pick-ups have doubled in the past 10 years, and utes are now the second highest selling vehicle class in the country, behind small cars.
“I think there is a big opportunity in Australia,” said Mornhinweg. “I’m not saying we will revolutionise the ute, that’s a little bit too snobby, but what I am saying is we see there is a trend towards a more premium, more passenger car-like pick-up and we want to push that kind of trend.”