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What could set the Mercedes-Benz X-Class bakkie apart?

2018-05-08 09:54

Image: Warren Wilson

Lance Branquinho

Cape Town - That decision of Mercedes-Benz to enter the double-cab segment heralds an important milestone for the local bakkie market.

It brings a certain degree of maturity to the South African bakkie market, one of the world’s most competitive and long-established.

Mercedes-Benz is the original automotive brand, one steeped in luxury motoring and the pinnacle of performance. It’s many motorsport achievements and AMG’s immense commercial success has cultivated a brand steeped in dynamic relevance.

READ: Mercedes-Benz X-Class has arrived in SA - Here's what we know about this premium bakkie

But one forgets that Mercedes has been building trucks and heavy-duty off-rad vehicles for decades. The Unimog is a legend all of its own. X-Class is most certainly not the first Mercedes-Benz comfortable with getting mud all over the three-pointed star. 

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What do you think of the new X-Class? Will it be competitive in South Africa? 
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X-Class will establish many firsts for the local double-cab market. It has certainly broken a new ceiling for pricing, as was expected. This creates a margin for all its rivals to price upwards with little pressure, seeing as though X-Class has ascended, on debut, to the role of Mzansi’s most expensive bakkie. 

Mercedes-Benz benchmarks a specific requirement for cabin noise and vibrations levels in all its vehicles and with a dedicated engineering project to make X-Class the quietest double-cab yet, you can be sure there is no more comfortable a bakkie to drive or be a passenger in.

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Premium pricing for premium cabin comfort and lack of long-distance driving fatigue. These are all understandable features and influences that X-Class brings to the South African bakkie market. 

Yet there is one element of Mercedes-Benz’s bakkie which has been overlooked. Ignored. Unrecognised. It has little to do with engine outputs or off-road gradient climbing ability. But it does have everything to do with owning an X-Class. 

The Mercedes bakkie experience

Unlike all its rivals, X-Class will be the first double-cab bakkie retailed through a Mercedes-Benz sales and aftersales servicing channel – which also happens to be the definition of premium motoring.

You could argue that those who have bought Amaroks also access a premium German ownership experience, but for all VW’s merits, their dealers also sell Vivos. Which are entry-level cars. The most entry-level car a general Mercedes-Benz dealer stocks is an A-Class, which sells for three times Vivo money.

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X-Class is not going to be a workhorse bakkie. It’s a leisure double-cab. Think of it as a Mercedes-Benz SUV with a lot more load capacity.

That said, it’s going to be fascinating to see how the first year or two of privately owned X-Class mileage and servicing intervals are processed.

When is the last time you saw a Mercedes-Benz SUV with a bulbar, off-road specification bumpers or winch fitted?

Adventure double-cab owners desire these accessories and for dealerships accustomed to stocking piles of low profile tyres for AMGs as their biggest service item contingency, the bakkie customer will be a completely new set of demands to deal with.

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Within all of this there exists an opportunity for Mercedes-Benz. It can do something Toyota and Ford have never been able with Hilux and Ranger, by possibly creating a bespoke, double-cab bakkie tailored servicing and ownership experience.

Much like AMG performance centres cater exclusively to the whims of Mercedes-Benz’s performance obsessed customers, dedicated bakkie-centric floorspace in a dealership could really make the X-Class customer feel special and understood.

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Mercedes-Benz has already invested heavily in its own range of bakkie accessories. From the outset X-Class product planners have admitted they realise the double-cab bakkie customer is one who is given to customisation, and Mercedes would prefer to keep that spend in-house instead of aftermarket.

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If the question is truly how X-Class is going to influence the South African bakkie market, it’s has hardly anything to do with pricing or volumes. 

The most pronounced influence X-Class could possibly have, is if Mercedes-Benz applies all the customer experience knowledge it has gained from being the world’s biggest retailer of luxury cars, to tailor a unique customer experience for double-cab owners.

Imagine the security of ownership in having an X-Class on Mercedes-Benz’s Agility Financing, with Guaranteed Future Value and downstream trade-in.

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