Just because they can doesn't mean they should.
If it worked for Honda with the Pilot becoming the Ridgeline, then could the same formula also apply to Volkswagen and its new US-built three-row Atlas crossover? It's definitely a possibility, as we learned while speaking with Dr. Matthias Erb, chief engineering officer for Volkswagen of North America, at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show. Atlas sales start soon, and VW is asking itself how it can further scale the platform. Considering pickup trucks are a big part of US vehicle sales, Dr. Erb confirmed VW is exploring turning the Atlas into a truck.
At the same time, we were also told that a proper body-on-frame chassis-based truck hasn't been ruled out either. However, VW isn't just about to jump into the truck market. One reason, according to Dr. Erb, is the US-centric marketplace. "More than 80% of trucks in the US are full-size. There are three main automakers who greatly protect this segment: Ford, GM and Ram. They're not just about to let someone else invade their turf." Compare Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan sales to those of the Big Three. Numbers don't lie, and those Japanese brands are now fully aware of the customer loyalty the domestics enjoy. Muscling into the US truck market is harder than it looks.
Dr. Erb knows this. "Body-on-frame trucks are a protected market," he stated, which means unibody construction could be VW's only realistic option, assuming a truck program will proceed at all. Because of the Atlas' size, it's totally possible to turn it into an all-wheel-drive truck, but the question is whether or not VW should. And, for the record, Dr. Erb made it clear, once again, that VW will not bring the overseas market Amarok mid-size pickup to the US. Not now. Not ever.