By on March 2, 2018

2011 BMW M3 Pickup
With Mercedes-Benz entering the pickup market with its new X-Class, BMW has admitted it may be time to did the same. To be clear, it wasn’t the home office that made this assertion. It was head of BMW Australia Marc Werner.

Aussies love their pickups or, more appropriately, its smaller, low-riding counterpart, affectionately called a “ute.” If you’re unfamiliar with the vehicle category, you probably don’t spend a lot of time in Australia or New Zealand. Bastardized from the term “coupé utility,” the ute moniker used to be reserved for models like the Ford Ranchero or Chevrolet El Camino. The term has since expanded to mean any non-gargantuan pickup truck and has roots going back to the 1930s.

At any rate, Werner says BMW needs to build one and the executive is pushing Germany to get the show on the road. Unfortunately for Warner, Bavaria’s receptiveness toward the segment has been mixed, to say the least. BMW senior vice president Hendrik von Kuenheim called Mercedes’ upcoming X-Class “appalling.” However, he appeared to be speaking more to the perceived subpar quality of the Nissan Navara-based pickup and not the concept itself. 

2011 BMW M3 Pickup

BMW has even built a couple of pickups based on the M3. The first vehicle ended up being a factory parts hauler from 1986 to 1998 and the second turned out to be an elaborate April Fools’ prank from 2011. That’s unfortunate, as BMW’s comedy routine was capable of a claimed 186 mph and ended up being 150 pounds lighter than car it was based on.

Werner doesn’t see it as a joke, however. He believes it’s a segment BMW should be exploring, lest it be left in a cloud of some other automaker’s dust. “We have been very pushy regarding utes or pick-ups, and we believe that this is something the company should be looking into,” he told CarAdvice at the launch of the X2. “We have raised that with headquarters and certainly investigations are happening as we speak, but it’s too early to speak about the results of that analysis, but if there was a ute we would certainly take it.”

“We cannot close our eyes and neglect it, we cannot neglect market trends,” Werner explained. “If you look at the market, more than 150,000 Utes [were sold last year], out of 1.1 m cars overall and I think that that segment grew last year by 17 percent.”

BMW M3 Pickup, concept car 1986

Unfortunately, von Kuenheim previously stated that a pickup is not a priority while BMW furthers its hybrid technology and sets itself up for more electric cars. As he sees it, pickup profitability wouldn’t match electrification for a high-end brand. But Werner believes otherwise, stating that people said the same thing about SUVs and noting X-badged vehicles now account for the majority of the brand’s global sales.

Furthermore, Mercedes-Benz clearly saw an opportunity for itself with the X-Class. Truck sales are strong right now and appear to be on the rise around the globe, something that clearly helped encourage Ford’s relaunch of the Ranger in North America. While Mercedes didn’t see the X-Class as a good fit for Yankees (especially if they aren’t building in-country) or Canucks, that doesn’t mean it won’t eventually immigrate.

Assuming BMW did decide to build a truck, it could even follow its German rival’s lead and adopt something from another automaker while addressing von Kuenheim’s concerns that it would have to feel and “drive like a typical BMW.” The brand’s joint development with Toyota of the Supra/Z4 is apparently doing just that. In fact, Toyota Hilux seems like the ideal ute candidate and the Germans could theoretically tweak it to adhere to von Kuenheim’s specifications with modest effort. Because, let’s face it, it’s not 1996 anymore and the “typical BMW” is an SUV.

2011 BMW M3 Pickup

[Images: BMW]

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46 Comments on “BMW ‘Cannot Neglect’ the Truck Segment Any Longer...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The final nail in the coffin for BMW’s “The Ultimate Driving Machine” tagline.

  • avatar
    WestoverAndOver

    PAGING BAFO

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Munching popcorn and waiting for a diatribe about how the author misused the term “UTE”, the Chicken Tax, aluminium tariffs, and the overall ignorance and obesity of Americans. Another day at the office for BAFO.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Actually elscotto I’ve been having a couple of weeks off after getting my last IOL (intra-ocular implant).

        It seems you have me wrong, I’m not a ute fan, never was, always owned a pickup, even a F 100.

      • 0 avatar
        Spike_in_Brisbane

        I am happy to comment on the misuse of the term “Ute” even ignoring the cultural differences that make an Aussie ute different. The most ridiculous use of the word “Utility” is in the abbreviation SUV as applied to the BMW X4 and X6 and the Mercedes GLC and GLE.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      I fully expect a puerile remark on my screen name if he replies. Again, another day at the office for BAFO.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Westoverandover,
      I haven’t seen your name ever grace TTAC before. Welcome.

      So you read TTAC lots and formed an opinion of me?

  • avatar

    They’ll just rebadge something from Toyota or Mitsubishi or whatever. Might as well, the rest of the car world is doing the same sorts of things. Brand roots simply do not matter any more, for any volume manufacturer.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      BMW could bling up and leather up a Tacoma and stick roundels on it as needed. Toyota might be tempted to drop a few curved “L’s” on this blinged out, leahtered up Taco. The question is; would bling and leather get enough buyers in a lather?

      • 0 avatar

        I think it would work for BMW.

        Afterall, they did it before with the Freeclimber. And that was just a tiny Suzuki SUV.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        A Tacoma?

        A Hilux would be more logical as I would suspect the US market would make it unviable to manufacture in sufficient quantities because the chicken tax stops imports.

        This would be for the global market, not US.

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          BMW dealers would rise up with their pitch forks and be fighting mad if the factory rebadged a Toyota. Way too reliable of a rig in both the short and long term to have a BMW rounder on it.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE ANY MONEY ON SERVICE!

            FWIW I’m sure that a Tacoma with BMW badges would somehow be the only Tacoma with pi$$-poor resale value.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            I wouldn’t be shocked if Ford came out with Lariat and King Ranch trim-level Rangers, would a Lexus Tacoma (GX50?) be much of a stretch? Or would it be the ultimate in badge-engineering cynicism?

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            The Ranger Lariat has already been announced.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    It’s like a Chevy Luv for rich people.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I would daily that E30 trucklet. But otherwise this is stupid

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    I’m pretty sure that BMW can ignore the “Ute” market literally forever, honestly.

    (I mean, they could also take an X3 or X5 and rebody it, but … it can’t possibly be worth it.)

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Camino is path, so El Camino is Spanish for “the path”.

    Which means BMW needs to build Der Weg.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Wow…

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    I actually photographed one of these in 2012 at the Baltimore ALMS event. It was orange and pretty cool!

  • avatar
    St.George

    Please can they make the E30 again? I had two, a 1986 316 (1.8l carburetor, slow as molasses but fun to drive) and a 1987 320i two door, fantastic little car.

    Both were bank vault solid, no frills, high quality, I miss them.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    No BMW!

    The ute is dead! The world has changed.

    A BOF midsizer is needed if you want success nowadays. Something that is easy to modify to suit the individual.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    No BMW!

    The ute is dead! The world has changed.

    A BOF midsizer is needed if you want success nowadays. Something that is easy to modify to suit the individual.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      The Chicken tax is easy enough to skirt, Mercedes does it every day (Sprinter). The Mitsubishi Mighty Max (Dodge D50) was never made in the US.

      Except the US market would be a bad fit for a BMW pickup or Mercedes pickup, they know it and US isn’t on their pickup truck radar. US consumers would start to reject these two as “luxury car” brands, although that’s already happening.

      BMW/Merc as well as Audi and other Euro luxo brands, just don’t have the brand cache, or impact at the country club they used to. That cash cow has slipping for a while, and better left alone.

      A BMW pickup would do the automaker no favors in perception of the “brand” in the US, especially when used by 2nd or 3rd owner landscapers, junk/cardboard recyclers, and whatnot.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Ford also pays the tariff on the Transit Connect. If they can afford to do it on a small cargo van, there’s no way in hell you’ll convince me that Mercedes and BMW couldn’t do it for a high-margin luxury truck. The “they can’t because Chicken Tax!!!” argument holds about as much water as a colander.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Note that the X3, X5, etc. are Made In America.

          To avoid the Chicken Tax, no?

          Plainly BMW thinks it’s far better off not having to jack up prices to cover a 25% tariff.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    I actually think that a modestly sporty, RWD or proper AWD, car-based or even X-based ute would fit the BMW brand better than do the FWD 1-series compact cars and 2-series compact whatever-it-is.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The 2-Series coupe and cabriolet are RWD, and very much the successor to classic Bimmers. The 2-Series Active Tourer (not sold here), and X1 are the FWD MINI-based ones.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Nein, nein, nein, nein…oh, for the love of all that is holy. Please, no. Heck, even today’s BMW doesn’t “drive like a typical” BMW anymore. That boat sailed long ago. I hardly recognize BMW today. While I once bled blau mit weiss, those days are fading fast.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I can picture it now. Chip and Misty tossing post-hole diggers, shovels, wood, and fencing into the bed of the BMW and heading out to the back forty to secure a breach on their alpaca ranch.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Cool! I said the exact same thing when I saw the Mercedes X-class. Oh well, at this point does it honestly really matter? Any purist pretensions BMW had vanished some years back.

    I’d prefer it if they didn’t make an M version however, because pick up drivers tend to drive like jags anyway. That would just make it worse.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Sad. BMW becomes The Ultimate Cupholder Machine.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    I got rid of my two worthless BMW’s (325i and z4).

    So, this pickup idea looks interesting.
    It wouldn’t be that hard to do: Take an X-5; extend the chassis a bit; get rid of the SAV backend; and put on a pickup bed. Done.
    Then you’d get AWD, decent handling, good economy, and utility — all in one, and all set to go.
    What are they waiting for?
    Where do I sign up?

    ==========================

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      This. I say do one based on the X5 and the upcoming X7. The X7-based truck would probably do better in our market.

      The REAL reason Mercedes-Benz doesn’t offer the X-Class here is because the minute a Sierra Denali or F-150 Platinum pulls up next to it, it’ll look like the cheap knock-off with a luxury badge that it is. The American truck owner would laugh his @$$ off, and rightfully so.

      If BMW made one based on their current utilities, it would present itself as a genuine, pure effort. Rebadging an existing truck is ridiculous, and (only) offering a mid-size luxury truck in North America is as well.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    SS(r)?

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I get that the truck market is hot, but what about the Euro-branded luxury truck market? Not so much. Stick to what you’re good at, BMW.

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