BMW Australia really, really wants a pickup to take on the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class
It's been over 30 years since engineers at BMW M built a pickup based on the M3 to haul tools around their HQ. In 2011, another generation of BMW engineers did the same as an April Fools gag, then took the idea to its ultimate conclusion by flinging it around the Nurburgring. Now, with the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, BMW Australia isn't laughing—it wants a Bimmer 'ute for real. Australia's CarAdvice (via Motor Trend) reports BMW Australia's boss is pushing hard to make a BMW truck a reality.
“We cannot close our eyes and neglect it, we cannot neglect market trends,” said BMW Australia boss Marc Werner of the Australian 'ute market in general and the Mercedes-Benz X-Class specifically. “We have been very pushy regarding utes or pickups, and we believe that this is something the company should be looking into. We have raised that with headquarters and certainly investigations are happening as we speak ... it’s too early to speak about the results of that analysis, but if there was a ute, we would certainly take it.” It isn't the first some Werner has called for a BMW pickup. While BMW has said it will never build one, Werner has been quoted as saying, "never say never."
Mercedes-Benz teamed with partner Nissan to bring the X-Class to fruition. Behind the Mercedes tri-star emblem sits a Nissan Navara, the global equivalent to the Nissan Frontier sold in the United States. Mercedes-Benz has repeatedly stated the X-Class will not be coming to America, but it will be powered by one gasoline and two diesel engines in global markets. For BMW, a similar partnership with Toyota on the next-generation Z4 and Supra could extend to producing a BMW-branded pickup based on the Toyota HiLux. But its partnership with the Japanese automaker may not preclude it from going down the pickup path alone.
Hendrik von Kuenheim, manager of BMW Automobiles in the Asia, Oceania and South Africa regions, has called the X-Class appalling and not becoming of M-B. “I saw [X-Class] in Geneva and was actually disappointed. Very disappointed,” Kuenheim said in September. “They can do better, they build fantastic cars, but this one was a disappointment.” BMW Australia's Werner believes the company can't afford to ignore 'utes. “If you look at the market, more than 150,000 Utes [were sold last year], out of 1.1 m cars overall and I think that that segment grew last year by 17 percent. At the end of the day, we need to cater for what the customer and consumer want.”