Mercedes-Benz to launch pickup truck in 2017

October 25, 2016 1:03 PM EDT

The Mercedes-Benz logo is seen on a Mercedes-Benz F125 concept car that is electrically powered by a hydrogen fuel cell at the Hannover Fair in Hanover, Germany, April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Mercedes-Benz said it will launch a pickup truck in late 2017, becoming the first German premium auto maker to enter one of the most lucrative segments in the car industry.

Mercedes said the new "X-Class" will hit showrooms in Australia, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Europe late next year.

Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche, said: "With the Mercedes-Benz pickup, we will close one of the last gaps in our portfolio."

Currently no launch date for the United States, the biggest market for pickups, has been announced.

Pickup trucks have gained popularity mainly in the United States, with sales of such models accounting for 90 percent of global pretax margins at General Motors (NYSE: GM) and Ford (NYSE: F), according to analysts.

On Tuesday, General Motors and FiatChrysler both reported better than expected earnings mainly thanks to demand for pickup trucks and sports utility vehicles in North America. The segment has been moving upmarket with Ford's F-150 model fetching prices of up to $50,000.

Daimler said the new pickup truck would be built by its Vans division.

Germany's top car companies have been vying for the global title of best-selling premium automaker, expanding into new vehicle categories as a way to boost sales.

Deliveries of BMW's core brand reached a record 1.81 million last year. By comparison, Audi sold 1.74 million cars and Mercedes-Benz sold 1.65 million of its own-branded passenger cars.

Production of the Mercedes pickup will take place at Renault and Nissan <7201.T> plants, Daimler said.

Mercedes, Nissan and Renault have shared engines, plants and vehicle underpinnings since they forged a cooperation alliance in 2010.

For the European, Australian and South African markets, Mercedes will start manufacturing the truck at the Nissan plant in Barcelona, Spain, in 2017.

The X-Class for the Latin American market will roll off the assembly lines at the Renault plant in Cordoba, Argentina, starting in 2018, Daimler said.

(Reporting by Edward Taylor, editing by David Evans)

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