Cape Town - Bakkies dominated the South African sales charts in 2017, and with new additions to the double-cab market this year, it’s a market that is only going to gain momentum.
The arrival of Mercedes-Benz and Renault’s first double-cab bakkies will be of huge significance, with Mercedes likely becoming the first double-cab bakkie brand to edge towards a R1-million list price.
This introduction of X-Class and Alaskan will also complete the platform troika, where a Renault Alliance ladder frame chassis, with its unusual coil-sprung rear suspension, should underpin three different double-cab bakkies by the end of Q2 2018.
Customer indifference to new Navara was one of the great product disappointments of 2017, it would appear that South African bakkie buyers don’t see enough of a benefit to its coil-sprung rear axle to warrant trading out of their Ranger or Hilux bakkies, into a Navara.
Is this an ambitious warning to both Mercedes-Benz and Renault, that each of their double-cab bakkie ranges, which ride on much the same platform principle as Navara, could possibly also underwhelm sales expectations?
Mercedes will have a unique offering in its V6 powered X-Class, but that version is not expected to become available in South African until the last quarter of 2018.
It’s also the only one with a true Mercedes engine and drivetrain, and just as is the case with many other dearly priced SUVs featuring a three-pointed star, customers will be prepared to pay handsomely for a range-topping V6 bakkie, but perhaps not for its lesser four-cylinder siblings.
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This plays quite conveniently into the possible strategy of bakkie brand outlier, Renault. Alaskan, if priced keenly and laden with kit, could become the golden mean between the four-cylinder Navara and X-Class models.
Much, though, depends on the calibre of export credit subsidisation which could be applied to Alaskan, leveraged off the joint-venture local content production from Nissan’s factory outside of Pretoria.
Even more interesting, is Renault’s other double-cab offering. Evolved from the spectacularly successful Duster, the Oroch bakkie is what South Africans have been dreaming about for years: a compact four-seater bakkie.
Whereas once there was Corsa, Bantam and Strada, the only compact bakkie available in South Africa now is NP200, which is built by Nissan, one half of the Alliance. With Renault delivering the Oroch, it will mean that the Renault/Nissan alliance has an entire segment of South Africa’s bakkie market to itself, with absolutely no possible competition from Ford or Toyota.
Duster has proven itself to the South African motoring public with its excellent combination of Eurocentric styling and rugged gravel travel ability. Oroch should be much the same, even featuring similar drivetrains to the facelifted Duster.
The potential for an Oroch 1.5 dCi turbodiesel is nearly boundless, providing a terrific solution to younger buyers who struggle to accommodate their activity lifestyle, affordability and sufficient seating for a family of four during the weekly commute.
Oroch solves all these issues, with a loadbay to accommodate bikes, watercraft or refuse (all things which burden a Duster), whilst also offering a second row of seating. There is a caveat to note with the Oroch as a mini workhorse bakkie, and that is its 650kg load capacity sounds great, theoretically, but if you load the entire cab with adults (5x75kg), you’ll only have 325kg of gear to put on the back.
Making its mark
Curiously, it would appear that 2018, despite the fanfare surrounding a X-Class, could be the year that Renault becomes a recognised bakkie brand in South Africa, in a manner not dissimilar to what its Alliance partner, Nissan, already is.
Beyond Mercedes and Renault, the other news of destiny for Mzansi’s bakkie fans should be Ford’s high-performance Ranger Raptor, which should enter the market by 2019 and will be built in Silverton.
Powered by a highly-tuned, small capacity 2-litre turbodiesel engine and featuring customer suspension components and a ten-speed transmission, the rumour is that Raptor Ranger’s appearance and final specification should be revealed with the first quarter of this year. Hopefully, Toyota counters that reveal with news of its own TRD Hilux.