Prestige plan rumoured for humble ute

Could a $100,000 ute soon be on sale?

According to a report from US magazine Road and Track, a high-priced premium pick-up is not far away - but there’s already been a spanner thrown in the works for one luxury brand.

Mercedes-Benz was reportedly planning to introduce two new utes spun from an alliance with Nissan. The utes were set to be based on the next-generation Navara and the larger US-market Titan (which will soon get a diesel engine, opening the door for a new Patrol diesel), and they were expected to be on sale in some markets by the end of 2016.

The report states Mercedes-Benz wanted to follow Volkswagen’s lead with its Amarok and that it had entered into preliminary talks with VW to discuss a potential tie-up based on that vehicle.

But those plans apparently never eventuated, so instead Benz looked to its alliance with Nissan to offer badge-engineered versions of the Nissan utes, with tweaked suspension and different front- and rear-end styling and unique interior finishes, but the same underpinnings and four-wheel-drive systems. The utes would have been offered in single-, space- and dual-cab body styles.

According to the report, Mercedes-Benz engineers were already working on making the new ute quieter and more car-like in terms of its overall refinement.

However, Road and Track states the German luxury maker has now killed off those plans because the range of engines Mercedes-Benz wanted to offer could not be engineered for the new utes. Benz was also reportedly insistent on offering hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the utes, but Nissan apparently didn’t have that in its plans, either.

Instead, it appears Infiniti - Nissan’s luxury offshoot - will offer spin-off versions of the Navara and Titan.

The report quotes an Infiniti insider as suggesting the brand has plans in place to offer such vehicles. However, Fairfax has been provided with a statement from Infiniti's head office which states the brand has "no intention of releasing any commercial vehicle models". 


On paper, at least, it would make sense for Infiniti to expand its lineup. Its parent company Nissan has a strategic plan to introduce 88 models in the years from 2011-2016, and these would fit the brief.

Sales of utes continue to rise: light commercial vehicle sales are up 6.8 per cent compared to 2012, with four-wheel-drive utes up 15.0 per cent.

Coincidentally, Nissan currently offers the most expensive mainstream dual-cab ute in Australia - the Nissan Navara ST-X 550, which is priced at $62,990 plus on-road costs. There's also the more specialised Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series dual-cab, which tops out at $67,990 plus costs.

Utes in Australia are as much sports cars as they are work vehicles, with many buying Holden and Ford utes with high-performance engines and more of an emphasis on a challenging road than the work site.  

HSV even sells its V8-powered Maloo R8 for $68,290 plus on-road costs.