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Mercedes plans first pickup as luxury pushes limits

Christoph Rauwald
Bloomberg News

Mercedes-Benz plans to make its first pickup, extending a push by manufacturers of upscale vehicles to invade territories traditionally dominated by mass-market competitors.

Mercedes will introduce a mid-size pickup by the end of the decade, focusing sales on Europe, Latin America, Australia and South Africa, the division of Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler AG said Friday. The project will attempt to succeed where previous upscale trucks like General Motors Co.’s Cadillac Escalade EXT and Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln Blackwood failed.

“The Mercedes-Benz pickup will contribute nicely to our global growth targets” as the vehicles are increasingly being put to personal use rather than just commercially, Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche said in a statement.

Germany’s luxury-car makers, which built their reputations on refined sedans, have been pushing into vehicle segments that would previously have been spurned as they compete for volume. Mercedes, the world’s third-largest premium-car manufacturer, plans to overtake Volkswagen AG’s Audi marque and market leader BMW AG in sales by the end of the decade.

The race for the lead has prompted Ingolstadt-based Audi to roll out the A1 subcompact hatchback and Munich-based BMW to add a van-like wagon that can seat up to seven people. After sport- utility vehicles became popular years ago, the addition of a pickup would open a new front in the battle for the No. 1 spot in deliveries.

The Mercedes pickup will be smaller than full-sized models that competitors offer in the U.S., where the segment is dominated by Dearborn-based Ford’s bestselling F-150 and the Chevrolet Silverado from Detroit-based GM. The German company’s vehicle, which will offer about 1 metric ton of payload capacity, will be built by its commercial-van division.

To cut costs for the project, Daimler can tap technology from Japanese partner Nissan Motor Co. The automakers’ cooperation includes Nissan’s Infiniti brand using Mercedes underpinnings for a compact car. Yokohama-based Nissan makes Titan and Frontier trucks for the U.S. market.