von Kuenheim is talking about the Nissan Navara-based Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup, a truck not presently destined for North America but one that will appear across the region for which von Kuenheim is in charge: Asia, Australia, South Africa.
“I saw that car in Geneva and was actually disappointed,” BMW’s von Kuenheim says. “Very disappointed.” Calling the X-Class “appalling,” and suggesting we “would have expected something more serious,” von Kuenheim’s comments about the body-on-frame Mercedes-Benz pickup accompanied a number of revelations regarding a future BMW truck.
Don’t expect a BMW pickup to rival the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2.
Far from describing the auto press as fake news, BMW’s senior VP was fully on board with journalist opinions when it comes to the X-Class. “I listened to some of your (media) colleagues from other countries,” von Kuenheim says of early X-Class critiques. “They said it was very cheap, very plasticky, not very much Mercedes-like what you would expect.”A BMW pickup truck, which von Kuenheim says has progressed into an investigatory stage, would be very different if it ever came to fruition. Rather than the utilitarian approach of the Stuttgart competitor, Motoring reports, “It has to drive like a typical BMW and also has to fulfil the true BMW genes,”
BMW Australia’s managing director Marc Werner says. If the SUV/crossover sector’s share of the market keeps rising past 60 percent, Werner says, “there is also space for a ute,” at BMW. Ute, you’ll recall, is Aussie-speak for a pickup truck.
The difficulty for BMW, von Kuenheim says, isn’t the perceived lack of demand, but rather the company’s priorities. Progressing to the next stage of internal combustion engines, furthering hybrid technology, establishing electric cars (which, “at the moment, if you look at Tesla, is not really a great profit opportunity,” von Kuenheim says), entering an autonomous driving era, and figuring out fuel cells are all areas in which BMW needs to spend money. “So you need to prioritise yourself. What do we want to do. And from all the priorities the pickup is maybe not number one or two priority.”
But Hendrik von Kuenheim and Marc Werner, because of the markets they represent, have a particularly urgent position on a BMW pickup truck. von Kuenheim has a BMW pickup rendering on his phone case; Werner says, “I personally believe, having been in Australia for more than three years, that there is room for a luxury ute, which is not there at this point in time.”
It will, if a BMW pickup truck ever does transpire, certainly be less shocking to the enthusiast system to see, for example, a Hofmeister kink on the side of a pickup truck, than it was to see the first BMW utility vehicle. It’s been two decades since the BMW X5 exited a South Carolina factory. “Now we have an X1, X2, X3, X4, X5, X6, and X7,” von Kuenheim says, “and who knows what else is coming.”
“We have a responsibility,” says BMW Australia’s Marc Werner, “to fulfill customer needs.”
[Image: Daimler AG]