Mercedes-Benz’s bakkie business is in trouble as the X-Class has been less of a success than the original hype suggested.
More consequences have been added to the unfolding corporate scandal involving former Renault-Nissan alliance business architect and chairman, Carlos Ghosn.
Mercedes-Benz’s youthful new boss, Swede Ola Källenius, is understood to be reviewing the German brand’s balance sheet and its business ventures involving Nissan are under pressure of dissolution.
Nissan and Mercedes signed a cooperation agreement way back in 2009. Vehicles delivered from this joint research and development project include the Mercedes GLA/Infiniti XQ30 and Mercedes-Benz’s X-Class bakkie, evolved from the Navara platform.
Strict German corporate governance principles are pressuring Mercedes-Benz to divorce itself from any business dealings done with Nissan under Ghosn’s tenure. The implications of this are potentially massive for Mercedes-Benz’s bakkie operations. By 2022, when the current X-Class and Navara are due to be replaced, Mercedes will not be able to continue with the next-generation Navara as its bakkie platform.
Nissan and Mitsubishi have come to an agreement that their next-generation Navara and Triton bakkies will be platform twins. With VW having signed a deal with Ford to produce the next Amarok, Mercedes will struggle to find a bakkie platform partner.
Developing its own dedicated double-cab platform will also prove very costly, at a time when electrification and autonomous driving technologies are pressuring Mercedes-Benz’s research and development budget.
Battery power and autonomous driving technologies have little appeal or application for bakkie customers and Mercedes project managers could find it challenging convincing the company’s board that a platform investment in new product not using either, is justifiable.
The German business media have reported that Mercedes leadership are unimpressed by the commercial performance of X-Class to date. This could mean that Mercedes might be forced to concede defeat regarding its bakkie project, after only one generation of X-Class – unless it considers the huge and potentially profitable American bakkie market, an adequate incentive to spend the development budget on an independently engineered X-Class 2.0.