The Mercedes pickup of your pampered redneck dreams

March 28, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

There was a brief blip there, when gas prices were skyrocketing and American automakers were tanking due to their unutterable blandness, bloat, arrogance and shaky build quality – not to mention the fact that the Bush years decimated the U.S. economy – that efficient, well-designed small foreign cars were the best selling vehicles in America.

Didn’t last long. Obama resurrected the economy and forced the US auto industry to slap itself awake, Big Oil went back to its gluttonous ways and Americans, soothed once again into our default state of false complacency, have gone back to buying our most favoritest mode of transport, ever.

Nope, not big SUVs. It’s pickup trucks, of course – and by a huge margin, too. Get this: Ford’s bro-tastic F-150 outsells both the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, the No. 1 and 2 best-selling cars, respectively, by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. Chevy’s Silverado and Dodge’s RAM are close behind. For U.S. automakers, trucks are a goldmine.

Merc's absurd 6x6 AMG. Yours for only $500K. And up.

Merc’s absurd 6×6 AMG. Yours for only $500K. And up.

And they’ve owned the U.S. market for just about ever, too. Thing is, pickups have always had a decidedly down-market image. Utilitarian, boring, often cheesily macho, working class, hugely inefficient, terrible driving dynamics. They’re beasts. Translation: No hipster dad, wealthy VC exec or overpaid tech bro is eager to give up his Audi Q5 or BMX X5 to pilot a ginormous, road-numb, 12MPG Silverado to the office.

That might be about to change. Reports are swirling that Mercedes, no stranger to making totally badass, ridiculously expensive, ultra niche-market trucks for the Arab sheik/creepy paramilitary/drug-kingpin set, is planning to introduce its first consumer-grade pickup by decade’s end.

You wish

You wish

And why the hell not? Germany’s big three automakers are fast coming around to the idea that no one cares about their precious images anymore. At least, not like we used to. We’re in a world where Apple is making a $10,000 gold watch. Ferrari hawks tacky landfill crap in shopping malls. 22-year-old tech bros are making $150K starting salaries and still can’t dress themselves. And the Germans are already swarming into the small SUV market (BMW X1, Audi Q3, Merc GLA), a category they once shunned. Hell, even brands like Bentley, Maserati, and Lamborghini are expected to release their own freakishly expensive SUVs in a couple years.

Seems like a sure bet that pickups, one of the last vestiges of blue-collar Americana, are a shockingly ripe to go upscale. Like coffee, like burgers, like mac n’ cheese, like anything once cheap and working class that’s been “discovered” by artisan makers and upscale brands, pickups seem ready for a posh makeover. After all, it’s not just rednecks and working-class folk who willingly buy into America’s illusion of ruggedness, utility, toughness.

Lambo's Urus concept, from 2012. Still might happen! Got 300K?

Lambo’s Urus concept, from 2012. Still might happen! Got 300K?

Imagine BMW whipping up a stylish mid-sized pickup with great handling, refinement, lots of silly luxe touches like, say, a built-in (BMW-branded) tent, matching bikes, a pop-up digital movie screen. Imagine Tesla coming out with an all-electric urban pickup whose bed doubles as a solar recharger for its own batteries and the whole thing is a mobile Wifi hub. Why not? Pickup trucks! Not just for Florida/Georgia Line fans anymore. Watch for it.

NOTE: According to Mercedes, that pickup is only slated for Latin America, South Africa, Australia and Europe. We’re not getting it. Which is, of course, entirely stupid. Watch for them to snap out of it by 2020.

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Mark Morford

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