Volkswagen's Pickup Strategy Could Radically Upset The Truck Industry

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To beat domestic truck makers at their own game, VW might have to tear up the rulebook entirely.

It's no secret that Volkswagen has been flirting with doing what many foreign automakers have tried and failed to do before: to successfully bring a pickup truck to the American market. Those intentions were made clear when VW brought the Tarok, an MQB platform-based concept truck aimed at the South American market, to the 2019 New York Auto Show to gauge interest from American buyers. Then, Volkswagen Group of America CEO Scott Keogh went ahead and told us he sees an opportunity to tap into American consumers' unmet needs with an A-size pickup truck. A truck that would be sized like a Chevy S10 from the early 2000s and priced to undercut every mid-sized pickup competitor.

That talk all but confirms that a Volkswagen truck for America is a matter of when, not if, but the blank we had yet to fill was how. Thanks to what VW's American exec recently told Automotive News, we know more about that.

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According to Keogh, Volkswagen can make one of three plays: 1) The automaker could lean on its partnership with Ford and homologate a Ranger-based truck so it has another body-on-frame platform to replace the Amarok with, which it could then bring to the US. 2) It could more closely follow the Tanoak Concept from 2018's New York Auto Show and develop its own unibody "lifestyle" truck based on the Atlas. 3) VW can target potential buyers of A-segment trucks with a real-life Tarok Concept built using the MQB platform, which would leave product planners with plenty of powertrain options to chose from.

It's the option behind door number three that interests us most since it would put a species of truck that had gone extinct in America back on our roads. As Keogh tells it, "the theory is quite straightforward: It's an A-segment sized vehicle. There's no pickup truck in the US market that is quite that size at all."

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The correct way to roll out VW-badged pickups, as you might imagine, is not so cut and dry. Going with options one or two would likely leave Volkswagen with larger mid-size trucks that butt heads with existing competitors like the Ford Ranger and Chevy Colorado. The most apparent way to win there is to make the Volkswagen the most affordable truck of the bunch, which will be difficult. Going with option three and building an A-segment truck is more of a gamble, since there's no proof Americans want that sort of truck even if it undercuts the competition with a low price. The Tarok is already slated to be sold in South America starting in 2020, and if Keogh decides to bring it to the US (Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess put the decision in Keogh's hands), we might get a cheap fuel-sipping truck of our own soon after that.

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