Go­ing soft on tough truck

The rough­est and tough­est mem­ber of the Mercedes-Benz fam­ily could be go­ing soft for Aus­tralia, writes PAUL GOVER

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE -

THE six-wheeled Benz G-Wagon un­der test by the Aus­tralian mil­i­tary is be­ing con­sid­ered for a civil­ian fu­ture Down Un­der.

There are cus­tomers queued for the car but, be­fore it gets a go-ahead, it must be cleared from Aus­tria.

‘‘There is noth­ing else like it. There is de­mand,’’ Mercedes-Benz Aus­tralia spokesman David McCarthy said.

‘‘It’s fair to say that if we had a civil­ian ver­sion we would be hold­ing a con­sid­er­able num­ber of or­ders.

‘‘We’re scop­ing that with Magna-Steyr in Graz in Aus­tria.’’

Benz has won a ma­jor de­fence con­tract with the G-Wagon and is also work­ing on a civil­ian ver­sion of the stan­dard four-wheel drive model.

Early next year it will rein­tro­duce the fully lux­ury G-Wagon — com­plete with leather and wood in the cabin.

‘‘The first few ve­hi­cles, which are the G350 and G55, will be here some­time in Novem­ber. It’s very small num­bers. The first cars for cus­tomers will be in the new year,’’ McCarthy said.

But, with the G-Wagon pro­gram un­der­way and solid mil­i­tary sup­port, the fo­cus is shift­ing to the po­ten­tial for ex­tra civil­ian sales.

‘‘The ve­hi­cles are suit­able for min­ing, farm­ing, fire­fight­ing, that sort of thing, McCarthy said.

‘‘We’ll have an eval­u­a­tion cab-chas­sis and sta­tion wagon here soon and we’re talk­ing to Aus­tria about the six-wheeler.

‘‘We’ve had dis­cus­sions with min­ing com­pa­nies and oth­ers, and they are in­ter­ested in the ve­hi­cle.

It’s fair to say that if we had a civil­ian ver­sion we would be hold­ing a con­sid­er­able num­ber of or­ders

‘‘But this is by no means a done deal. We need to make a busi­ness case.

‘‘We have to find out if they can make a civil­ian ver­sion at a price and spec­i­fi­ca­tion to meet the cus­tomers’ needs,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s fair to say there is very strong in­ter­est in this ve­hi­cle. Not just for it’s off-road abil­ity but also for its dura­bil­ity, safety and is ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

‘‘It’s a bit of a flex­i­ble plat­form, and there is lo­cal in­volve­ment in the body mod­ules, so there is a huge po­ten­tial.

‘‘We just need to make a busi­ness case.’’

The mil­i­tary six-wheeler is be­ing tested along­side the four-wheeler in Aus­tralia, Ger­many and Aus­tria and the plan is for de­liv­er­ies to be­gin next year.

The plan is to have 1200 in the Aus­tralian De­fence Force by the end of 2013.

‘‘This ve­hi­cle was de­vel­oped uniquely for the ADF,’’ McCarthy said.

‘‘A civil­ian ver­sion might look sim­i­lar but would be sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent.

‘‘There are com­po­nents of the mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle that have very dif­fer­ent spec­i­fi­ca­tions,’’ McCarthy said.

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