Volkswagen will soon have a decision to make. For the past several years the German automaker has been examining how it can re-enter the highly lucrative US pickup truck market. Decades ago it built and sold the small Rabbit Pickup in the US. Today, VW is strongly considering bringing the production-spec Tarok concept, which utilizes the MQB platform, to North America. Another truck possibility could come from Ford. Following the recently signed partnership between the two global automakers, VW is interested in getting access to the Ranger's platform to underpin the next-gen Amarok, currently sold overseas only. Doing so would enable VW to sell the Amarok in the US. But really, a rebadged Ranger?
Wards Auto recently spoke with Volkswagen of America's new senior vice president for product strategy, Hein Schafer, about that possibility.
"It's still a little bit hazy to be quite honest," he said. "We've kind of signed probably what could be classified as some sort of a joint agreement to say, 'Hey, let's partner up, let's share ideas.' What will come of it is, at the moment, still not 100% certain." Schaefer admitted a small team at both Ford and VW are trying to figure out how to best take advantage of the new partnership specifically regarding commercial vans and mid-size trucks. But Schaefer also acknowledged the likely complications of using the Ranger platform.
"You've got to think about it realistically: We would have to build a vehicle on a Ford platform that would have to look totally different to the Ford, so it's a complex project. And also, obviously, Ford (would) have to remain competitive in the market. They're not going to throw, like, an olive branch at us and give us their Ranger or whatever else. It's super-competitive (in that segment)."
No doubt it's a difficult decision to make and VW may ultimately decide it's best suited to offer America a so-called "lifestyle" pickup like the Tarok, or what it calls the A-segment pickup. Hyundai will soon enter the small, car-based pickup segment as well with the production version of its Santa Cruz concept. The currently on sale Honda Ridgeline is also car-based. What VW will never do, Schaefer added, is an F-150 fighter.
"I don't think for Volkswagen it will ever really work. F-150 has that segment sewn up so tight. And for us to try and produce a pickup – even if we match the F-150 in every single aspect - trying to conquest an F-150 customer would be stupid."
If we had to make a bet right now, we'd put our money on the Tarok coming to the US. VW will then closely watch sales and go from there.