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