Don't worry Volkswagen, we think people will buy your truck.
Early last year, Volkswagen hinted that it wanted to build a pickup truck based on the Atlas SUV. A few months later, the company revealed the Atlas Tanoak Concept at the 2018 New York Auto Show. The Tanoak looks like an Atlas that took a testosterone pill, with aggressive bodywork, flared wheel arches, and chunky off-road tires. The Atlas was already a rugged-looking SUV thanks to its boxy shape, but this pickup truck concept really wowed us. Unfortunately, it was only a concept and VW didn't announce any plans to put it into production.
We know that building a pickup truck would be difficult for VW because of the Chicken Tax, but the company does have a plant in the US where such a vehicle could be built. A recent interview with Autocar revealed that the company still hasn't made up its mind on whether to build a truck. VW’s US boss, Hinrich Woebcken, said: “It fits the brand well because we want to get more American in the US, but it’s something we have to look at carefully. It’s a very patriotic segment, which American manufacturers dominate.” Woebcken isn't wrong, as the truck segment is currently dominated by the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra, and Ram 1500.
In 2017, the F-150 was the best-selling vehicle in the US with 896,764 units sold. Even the Chevy Silverado and Ram 1500 were distant runners-up with 585,864 and 500,723 units, respectively. In reality, VW could never compete with that level of sales volume, but the Atlas Tanoak wouldn't really compete against the larger full-size trucks. The Tanoak would be most likely compete with the mid-size Honda Ridgeline, which sold a comparatively modest 34,749 units in 2017.
This doesn't mean VW should give up. Toyota sold 198,124 units of the Tacoma in 2017 and Nissan even sold 74,360 of its aging Frontier, so there is interest in this segment. In its best year, 2006, the Ridgeline sold over 50,000 units. If VW could match this volume, it would be one of the best-selling models in the company's lineup behind the Jetta, Passat, and Atlas itself.