The United States is deservedly recognized as the pickup truck capital of the world, with the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Colorado the top selling models on the U.S. market while pickups in the rest of the world are niche players. But that doesn’t mean the open bed haulers aren’t, well, interesting.
Mahindra Imperio: Back in 2010, the Indian vehicle manufacturer Mahindra and Mahindra had plans to sell pickups in the U.S.—they already had a solid presence in the tractor market—but after more finger-pointing than disco marathon, the plans gang aglee. It saved the U.S. from rolling eyesores. The trucks were the mother of ugly, which was supposed to be a selling point, because they were supposed to be rugged, and everyone knows ugly is rugged. And they would also have something then not available, a diesel engine in a midsize pickup. But for now, there’s no Mahindra for the U.S.
What are we missing? The Mahinda Imperio pickup, perhaps. Perhaps Pininfarina hasn’t had a chance to work their magic on it, but it’s still ugly, despite Mahindra saying it has “an SUV stance [that] gives this pickup a unique look and a strong personality.” Not that strong. The 126-inch wheelbase Imperio’s 2.5-liter non-turbo diesel makes 75 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. The good news is a 1,000 pound payload and 31.8 mpg. The Mahindra luxury pickup lists air conditioning (OK, very important in India), tilt wheel, and power windows on all doors, whether standard or crew cab.
Conclusion: If the ugly doesn’t stop you, the inadequate performance will.
Ford Ranger: In the U.S., Ford allowed the mid-sized Ranger pickup to languish in the shadow of the larger but little more expensive F-150, finally allowing it to die in December 2011 (much to their later chagrin as GM is going gangbusters building the mid-size Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon). However, worldwide Ford has kept the name alive, introducing an all-new model at the Bangkok International Auto Show for the 2015 model year.
The new Ford Ranger, sold in 180 countries around the world, is built in Argentina, South Africa and Thailand. Depending on the market, three engines are available. Two turbodiesels, a 3.5-liter five-cylinder rated at 197 horsepower and 347 lb-ft of torque, and a 2.2-liter four making 158 horsepower/284 lb-ft torque. The petro-fueled Ranger is a 2.2L with 164 horsepower and 166 lb-ft. The Ranger can be equipped to tow 7,700 lbs.
Ford of Europe Chairman and CEO Stephen Odell said, “The all-new Ranger is a perfect example of how our ‘One Ford’ global strategy works.” Does that mean the Ranger is U.S. bound? It should be, but Ford has to build it in North America to avoid the 25 percent tariff on furin’ built trucks.
Conclusion: If you can’t buy it here today, maybe you can tomorrow. Or the day after tomorrow.
Nissan Navara: Navara, rather than Frontier, is the name that Nissan has used for pickup trucks in the rest of the world. Close enough, actually. “Navara” means “plains” in Spanish, and only America had a frontier. Everyone else has plains. Anyway, Nissan announced a new Navara NP300 for 2015 and it’s now on sale around the world, everywhere but here.
Available in extended and crew cab (as well as chassis-cab), the Navara NP300 has Nissan grille that looks a lot like that of the current U.S.-spec Frontier though with swept back headlights, and instead of a slight kick up at the bottom of the rear side windows, the Navara’s is much more accented. The Navara is offered with 2.5-liter/4-cylinder engines, a 2.5-liter gasoline and a 2.5-liter turbodiesel, but rather than the traditional live-axle-on-leaf springs rear suspension, the Navara has a five-link rear suspension with a live axle on coil springs for a smoother and more controlled ride.
Conclusion: This is your next Frontier, though it may take some time to get here. It will be assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee, and powered by a four, a V-6, or a Cummins turbodiesel.
Mercedes-Benz: Yes, Mercedes-Benz. But no one can have the Mercedes-Benz pickup truck, at least not yet. Mercedes engineers are working with Nissan to develop a luxury version of the Nissan Navara. The pickup is yet unnamed but following the M-B nomenclature protocol, GLT is the likely moniker. The truck has been spotted in heavy camouflage, but even in that it’s apparent that the truck is completely rebodied. There’s no word on engine, but don’t look for a Nissan powerplant. The Mercedes pickup has a range of engines and transmissions to choose from, and likely a version of Mercedes 4Matic all-wheel drive.
The GLT, if that’s its name, will be made at Nissan’s assembly plant in Barcelona, Spain, but it could also be put together at the Nissan’s Cuernavaca plant in central Mexico, which would make it possible to import it to the U.S. without paying the 25 percent tariff. Mercedes wants to be part of the growing pickup truck market, and piggybacking on the Navara is one way to get there quickly. Company sources have been cited at indicating, however, that the GLT won’t be spotted on Rodeo Drive, but we’ve heard that song before.
Conclusion: Once upon a time we were told that Mercedes and BMW would never sell something prosaic as an SUV in America. But they are. So why not a pickup truck?