Ladies and gentlemen, I’m about to come at you with a controversial opinion: The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is the car that every single luxury automaker should be trying to replicate. If you’re BMW, you should have a Mercedes G-Class competitor. If you’re Volvo, same thing. If you’re Lexus, Acura, Cadillac, whatever. Get a competitor to the Mercedes G-Class.
I know what you’re thinking: namely, Doug has finally lost it. But hear me out. See the Mercedes-Benz G-Class models for sale near you
A few weeks ago, I went and drove the Lexus LC 500, which was a very nice luxury coupe Lexus has released to try and attract buyers interested in a high-performance sporty car. But the truth is, the LC isn’t selling that well: Most dealers have one or two, and it’s not pulling in the same demographic as, say, Porsche. The few LCs I’ve seen have been driven by older people; the usual Lexus demographic stepping into something “sportier.” There are a few reasons for that, of course: One is that it’s expensive; another is that Lexus doesn’t have that brand image, and it’s going to take it a few years — maybe decades — to get there.
But do you want to know why I think the LC isn’t a huge success? Because it isn’t a Mercedes G-Class.
Here’s a simple truth: If you walk around Beverly Hills and Manhattan and you look at the cars, you’ll see an overwhelming number of young rich people in Mercedes G-Classes. Many celebrities are driving them, with very few exceptions. I was in the Hamptons over Memorial Day — basically the place where car fashion trends are set — and I have a photograph where three of them are in the same frame, next to each other, on the same street. Not at a Mercedes dealer. Just cruising around.
These days, the vast majority of new vehicles sold are SUVs or trucks, and it’s what all the young people want. The segment that contains cars like the Mercedes SLC and BMW Z4 is dying, because young people don’t want sporty cars anymore. They want SUVs. Ask any young person whether they’d rather have an Evoque or an Audi TT, and the answer will invariably be an Evoque. And ask any young person what the “ultimate” SUV is, and the answer will invariably be the G-Wagen. Or, as many people call it, “that celebrity Mercedes truck.”
You can see where I’m going with this.
Yes, the old formula is that young people buy sports cars, and if you want to attract young people to your car company, you build a sports car. But that’s the old formula. The new formula is this: If you want to attract young people, you build SUVs. Lots of SUVs. And one of them should be boxy, capable and ridiculously in-your-face.
Here’s some proof the G-Wagen is working: Not only is Mercedes about to reveal a fully redesigned one, but they’ve been able to milk the current model’s 40-year-old platform for a truly unparalleled array of highly desirable run-out models. How many other 40-year-old vehicles have released a 6-wheel-drive pickup truck, a lifted off-roader (4×42), a landaulet version with a half-convertible top, and a series of Skittles-colored models? And how many have had them sell for the sticker price?!
The G-Wagen is hot right now, and I truly don’t believe it’s a trend; I think this is where these things are, and they’re here to stay. People love SUVs, people love cool SUVs, and young people are gravitating toward them. For further proof, see the Ford F-150 Raptor — another boxy, brawny vehicle, albeit a truck, that’s enjoyed massive sales — and the stratospheric increase in value for old SUVs like the Ford Bronco, Toyota Land Cruiser and Land Rover Defender.
And this brings us back to Lexus. Lexus has a surprising amount of credibility in the off-roading-SUV world, based on their Land Cruiser-based GX and LX SUVs. They also have a lot of credibility in the luxury-vehicle world, based on their excellent reliability and top-notch customer service. But to get the younger buyers they seek, they should capitalize on this and make a reliable, aggressive G-Wagen rival rather than a sports car. In fact, everyone should, because this is where young buyers are right now. And if you’re at an automaker and you’re disappointed with the sales figures of that sports car you rolled out to attract young people (Acura NSX, Jaguar F-TYPE) … maybe it’s time to go G-Wagen. Find a Mercedes-Benz G-Class for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.