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Axon's Automotive Anorak: Plugging the gaps with posh pick-ups

18th November 2016
Gary Axon

Well, it was inevitable I guess.  By now most of the prestige and premium European car brands have managed to occupy (or created) every known new car segment, from funky electric city cars to lumbering SUVs, irrespective of customer demand or otherwise. So, posh pick-up trucks have to be the next logical step to plug yet another market niche! 

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The recent reveal of the new Nissan Navara-based Mercedes-Benz X-Class ‘concept’ previews the German marque’s new premium pick-up model, due to go on sale next year. The Americans, Japanese, Brazilians, South Africans and Australians mastered pick-up trucks years ago, actually using them for their true purposes as work horses, rather than a lifestyle prop. Be they known locally as UTES, bakkies or trucks, the traditional body-on-frame pick-up is something of an institution in many parts of the world, from the Outback, deserts and war zones to Rodeo Drive.

Closer to home though, European vehicle makers have been slow ‘pick-up’ on to the pick-up market, allowing the Japanese to dominate this market for decades.  Sure, years ago the likes of Morris and Peugeot offered rivals to the likes of the Toyota, Mitsubishi and Isuzu with its saloon car-based pick-ups (Marina, 404, 504, etc.), but these proved to be less robust and fit-for-purpose than the oriental Hilux, L200, D-Max, and so on.

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Volkswagen dabbled briefly in the ‘true workhorse’ pick-up sector in the 1990s with its Toyota Hilux-derived Taro (to complement its smaller Golf-based Caddy pick-up) but the vehicle was not a success. It took VW another 20 years before returning to the pick-up sector with its more overtly ‘lifestyle accessory’ Amorak model, which has proved to be a hugely popular.

Volkswagen is now, finally, being joined by a couple of rival European car brands in the pick-up arena, with the new badge-engineered Fiat Flatback (derived from the strong-selling Mitsubishi L200) now entering the market, and the Renault Alaskan (a reworked Nissan Navara) due here in 2017.  The Mercedes-Benz X-Class will be the first of the European premium car makers to tackle this expanding market segment though. 

Conversely, our American cousins have ‘enjoyed’ prestige badges stuck onto posh pick-up trucks for some time now, with the Chevrolet Silverado, Lincoln Mark LT, Hummer H3T, and others attracting pimps and hip hop artists from sea to shining sea.

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It will only be a matter of time I’m sure before we see some classy pick-ups adorned with BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Volvo badges, never mind the possibility of Range Rover, Porsche, Bentley, Maserati and others!

As a dyed-in-the-wool automotive purist, the thought of this makes me shudder, but mark my words, it is bound to happen. I mean, if I’d said just a few years ago that Bentley, Jaguar and Maserati would all be selling diesel-powered SUV off-roaders by 2016 you would have had me locked-away… 

  • Axon's automotive anorak

  • Mercedes-Benz

  • Pick-up

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