Merc Breaking Out

The new-generation Mercedes-Benz trucks coming onto the market see Merc breaking out of being a ‘niche’ truck brand and move into the mainstream. Diesel News drives the first batch release of rigid truck models in the range.

They went on display for the first time at the Brisbane Truck Show, and now the selection of rigid models Mercedes-Benz is releasing in the company’s new-generation refresh are available and on the road.

The launch of these rigid trucks follows on from the successful launch of the prime mover models last year. They have just emerged from a similar process to the one the company used in developing the prime mover range. A number of evaluation trucks were put into different fleets around the country. In all, 35 customers tried 20 trucks, covering over 1.8 million kilometres.

These trucks represent a seismic shift in the way Mercedes-Benz presents itself to the Australian truck market. In the past, the large rigids supplied by Benz were able to be sold into specific niches, areas of the truck market where the numbers sold annually remain relatively small.

This time the trucks have been developed specifically from the options available in Germany to sit squarely in high-volume segments of the truck market. These trucks have been specified in a way which will suit a large number of operators in Australia. The analysis of the Australian truck market done by Mercedes-Benz in the run-up to this launch has been well targeted and organised.

In the past, the design and specification of trucks from Mercedes-Benz has been a very inflexible affair. Trucks were designed and built to suit the European market, where the company sold most of his trucks. This meant, sometimes, the trucks had to be shoehorned into roles they weren’t perfectly suited for.

The privations that followed the global financial crisis, as the European truck market stagnated and later only grew in small steps when economies did improve, have led to a change of heart on the part of the German truck maker. This time, the entire design process of the Actros has been thought of in more global terms. First of all, the engine design was part of the global engine platform project started by Daimler Trucks after the acquisition of Freightliner and Detroit.

Thinking of a truck in terms of how it could be used in different ways in various situations has led to a much more flexible platform from which Australian truck designers have been able to pick and choose from what has been available to create something aligned to the needs of the Australian truck buyer.

What’s in a Name?

Another sign of the change in thinking about the trucks and their suitability for our market is the naming convention chosen for these trucks, or the lack of one. In Europe, the Mercedes-Benz truck brand has moved from three model ranges: Actros, Axor and Atego, to four: Actros, Arocs, Antos and Atego. One part of this ‘new-generation’ process has been in integrating the models; there is now a common electronic architecture across all Benz trucks. The cabin dash layout is mirrored all of the way from the smallest truck to the largest, creating uniformity across the range.

For Australia, the models are being identified by their numbering, those which denote GVM and engine power, all the way from a 3263, 32-tonne GVM and 630hp, down to the 1630, 16-tonne GVM and 300hp. Benz is grouping them under the ‘new-generation’ banner, but the large prime movers are still referred to as Actros, the smaller 4×2 is still an Atego and the twin-steer models all come under the Arocs banner.