Mercedes-Benz shows no quit in its electric vehicle offensive. Immediately after debuting the new EQB SUV, which itself came mere days after the EQS sedan, the automaker has teased the new Concept EQT, a near-production preview of an all-electric small van. The EQT will bring a world-first look at the new T-Class, the consumer passenger van version of the next-generation Citan commercial van. Mercedes doesn’t currently offer a Citan camper van, but it has hinted at and played with the idea enough to give us hope that the T-Class, and maybe EQT, will spawn a Mercedes mini-camper to battle Volkswagen’s new Caddy California.
Back in July of 2020, Mercedes announced the upcoming T-Class van as the consumer passenger counterpart to the yet-to-launch second-gen Citan commercial van. Now it prepares to present the Concept EQT as a first look at the T-Class family. Mercedes will reveal the near-production electric T-Class concept ahead of the ICE variants as part of its “electric first” strategy. It will add a little fanfare by including a new video featuring world-famous skateboarder and video game protagonist Tony Hawk as part of the digital premiere event.
The T-Class will essentially serve as the V-Class of the Mercedes small van family, a nicely appointed passenger van aimed at families and active leisure enthusiasts. Mercedes also positions it as an entry-level model designed to attract new customers to the brand.
Judging from the first teaser pic, the Concept EQT will share a bright, digitized front-end design with previous EQ concepts like the Vision EQS and Generation EQ. The illuminated bits of the van show sharp headlamps and a three-pointed star pattern covering the central grille panel. Mercedes says the Concept EQT will be guided by the same “Sensual Purity” philosophy that played a central role in the design of the new EQS.
The T-Class silhouette teased last year, meanwhile, previews a more raked, minivan-like direction for Mercedes’ small passenger van. A sturdy belt line appears to connect headlights and tail lights, and large side windows look like they could give the Hyundai Staria windows a run for their money. Like the current Citan, which debuted in 2012, the second-gen Citan and the T-Class are being developed in cooperation with Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi. The first T-Class models will hit the market in 2022.
A sub-5-m (16.4-foot) “Marco Polo Mini” based on the T-Class isn’t a sure thing given that Mercedes currently only offers midsize camper vans, but the timing of the new van family couldn’t line up better for the prospect of a camper variant. Last year, new camper registrations in Germany surpassed the 100,000 mark for the first time ever (according to Germany’s Caravanning Industry Association, or CIVD), with just under 80,000 of the 107,000 total comprising camper vans and larger motorhomes (vs towables). CIVD also reported a new German industry sales record of €12.5 billion.
In January, Mercedes took note of this industry growth in previewing its motorhome plans for 2021, identifying a major driver in compact camper vans able to serve loyally as both campers and everyday vehicles. It mentioned the new Citan in the motorhome announcement, suggesting that the new van’s dimensions and generous loading capabilities open new motorhome-conversion possibilities.
“The new Citan is one of our highlights in 2021,” said Klaus Rehkugler, Mercedes-Benz Vans head of sales and marketing. “But there is even more to come. Wait and see which other trends Mercedes-Benz Vans will address in the motorhome segment.”
Whether Mercedes’ hints equate to a Citan/T-Class model joining the Mercedes-Benz camper van family remains to be seen, but it does seem Stuttgart has some mini-camper plans for the near future, perhaps as early as August’s Düsseldorf Caravan Salon.
An all-electric T-Class camper van is more of a long shot than an ICE model, especially considering the midsize EQV has yet to be converted to a camper van by Mercedes or anyone else. But brands from Tesla to Canoo have increasingly baked camper conversion into their upcoming EV designs, so it’s up to someone to grab credit for launching the world’s first factory-built electric camper van. Mercedes is in as good a position as anyone to be that someone.
The automaker began expanding its global small camper van lineup last year, even before the pandemic sparked a surge in RV demand around the world. Inspired by the rising popularity of RVs, Mercedes debuted the American-market Metris Getaway (previously Weekender) just weeks before Covid-19-related closures and lockdowns spread rapidly across the US. The Getaway helps fill a factory camper van void Volkswagen left when it pulled its Eurovan campers off the market in 2003.