Volkswagen is mulling three options for a pickup in America
Volkswagen’s North American dealers would dearly love to offer a pickup truck and the Volkswagen Group would like to accommodate them, but Scott Keogh, the head of VW’s American operations, isn’t sure just what kind of pickup it’s going to be. Last October, VW Group CEO Herbert Diess said that the decision was up to Keogh, who now tells Automotive News, “We’ve got to see what the market says.”
Keogh says he will choose from three options:
Use VW’s alliance with Ford and homologate the Ranger-based body-on-frame midsize truck that it is developing to replace the Amarok in global markets.
Make a unibody midsize “lifestyle” pickup similar to the Tanoak concept VW displayed at the 2018 New York International Auto Show, based on the Atlas CUV.
Build a small unibody pickup like the Tarok concept VW just showed at the 2019 NYIAS, based on VW’s flexible MQB platform and assembled in Mexico.
The Tarok was developed by VW’s South American subsidiary and features two-row seating and a small bed with an effective length that can be extended to eight feet when the back seats and the back wall of the cabin are folded down. The idea is to have the economy and drivability of a small truck while still giving the utility of a standard bed when needed.
If VW runs with the Tarok, which will be made in Mexico and go on sale in South America next year, it will be borrowing a strategy from baseball great “Wee” Willie Keeler to “hit them where they ain’t.”
“The theory is quite straightforward,” Keogh says. “It’s an A-segment-sized vehicle. There’s no pickup truck in the U.S. market that is quite that size at all… There could be a space here.”
No matter the size, Americans like their pickup trucks with plenty of cargo and towing capacity. Keogh said he’s not concerned about power. “I don’t think drivetrain is an issue,” he explains, as the MQB is compatible with a variety of VW powerplants, including 300-horsepower V6 engines.
If VW does go with the third option, it will be taking a page from the company’s own playbook, a play that was innovative but not very successful. Four decades ago, Volkswagen sold a small unibody pickup based on the Rabbit/Golf in the United States, called simply the Pickup. VW even offered a diesel version, resulting in rather humorous images of the relatively tiny Pickup getting fueled next to big semis.
The Pickup was only available for five years and sold fewer than 80,000 units in that time. With one row of seats and a six-foot bed, similar to the car-based Chevy El Camino and Ford Ranchero, the Pickup was indistinguishable from its car siblings from the doors forward. Though it wasn’t a hit in the United States, the Pickup was sold as the Caddy in Europe into the 1990s and a variant was sold in South Africa in the last decade.