First ever Mercedes Benz ute lands in Australia
CASHED-UP tradies have begun placing orders for the first ever Mercedes ute - one year before it goes on sale and before anyone knows the price.
Demand in Australia is so strong, Mercedes has taken the unprecedented step of airfreighting a display car Down Under to give buyers an early preview - and also get their feedback on what they want in a workhorse.
While Mercedes is busy researching fleets and blokes, it is also trying to target female buyers.
"Utes are becoming gender neutral," says Mercedes spokesman David McCarthy. "They're just like an SUV to drive these days. They're no longer only for tradies."
Mercedes Australia says it has been caught off-guard by the demand so far ahead of a new car's showroom arrival.
Mercedes has never before brought out a display car a year ahead of the local launch of a new production model.
"There are more people lining up for this ute than any other future model we've revealed," says McCarthy.
Mercedes has also been conducting extensive research among fleet buyers, indicating the Benz ute won't only be for the well-heeled.
"While the most interest from customers has been in the premium models, there will also be a choice for people who need a tool-of-trade vehicle," says McCarthy.
Price is yet to be confirmed, but the Benz ute is expected to sit alongside the dearer versions of the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger utes, which cost in excess of $60,000.
Last month utes filled four of the Top 10 sales spots.
Last year the Toyota HiLux was the nation's top selling 'car' outright, the first time ever a ute has led the Australian market.
The Mercedes ute will in fact share much of its underpinnings with the Nissan Navara, following a joint venture deal.
However, Mercedes will fit its own V6 diesel engine, technology and safety systems.
Mercedes will also equip the car with a wider body and track than the Navara - and have unique steering and suspension tuning - ensuring it drives better than the vehicle on which it is based.