Amarok? Tanoak? What about an ID.Buzz-based pickup? VW gives us the scoop.
Volkswagen recently took the covers off the new Amarok midsize pickup, which shares underpinnings with the 2023 Ford Ranger. Eager to find out whether VW's North American arm had changed its mind about not bringing the Amarok stateside, CarBuzz reached out. In an interview with Hein Schafer, Senior Vice President of Product & Strategy at Volkswagen Group of America, it was confirmed that the Amarok will not be coming stateside, despite the shared Ford underpinnings.
But America is a big truck market, and when pressed about a future truck for the USA, Schafer suggested something could be in the works, or at the very least, under consideration for further down the line.
"We will work on a pickup," says Schafer, but points out, "I think if we do bring it to market, we want to bring a real competitor versus something that could be a 'wannabe pickup.'"
Our minds immediately jumped to a production version of the Tanoak concept, or the similar Tarok concept, both of which were unibody trucks sharing underpinnings with the VW Atlas in much the same way the Honda Ridgeline is a unibody SUV-based pickup.
"That could be a future consideration but not at this time," he says. VW understands that the US loves its trucks and that it could be a lucrative avenue. "We do watch the US truck market. We understand your affinity [for] trucks, but there are no plans at this time," Schafer said when asked if VW could be eyeing something smaller to rival the Ford Maverick or Hyundai Santa Cruz. "But if there were, it would be EV."
Volkswagen has a rich heritage of pickups, with the earliest being the Type 2 Pickup, which itself was based on the iconic VW Microbus. But with VW channeling the spirit of the Microbus in the new ID.Buzz, it brought on the next idea, what about an ID.Buzz-based electric pickup?
"I think probably the old-school T2 double cab pickup concept might be a little bit quirky for ID.Buzz," says Schafer. "You're right that MEB (the dedicated electric architecture which underpins the ID.4 and ID.Buzz) is a little more flexible, and we are already looking at how we can modify that platform to get the ride height up, to get the off-roading capability slightly better, to get the towing capacity, to get the carrying capacity so that we can produce a real, reputable pickup truck."
But raising the ride height interferes with aerodynamics, and increased drag reduces range, which is something he's quick to point out to us, and it's an issue he highlights as one all battery electric vehicle (BEV) manufacturers will face when it comes to trucks and off-road SUVs.
Despite his suggestion that MEB could be flexible enough, there's no guarantee MEB will be the foundation of an electric pickup. Schafer speaks about how MEB is the first generation electric platform and that there's room to improve. "There will be a second-generation electric vehicle platform that will come down the line that will be improved on what we have in MEB today." He tells us that "the real question is, do we develop MEB to give us the pickup, or do we maybe potentially use our next-gen platform to try and give us that pickup?
Interestingly, Schafer earmarked the Rivian R1T as a truck Volkswagen wouldn't mind emulating. "I'd say Rivian's done a relatively decent job of putting something out there with proper ground clearance, good 4x4 capability, and good functionality, so I think that something that's down that channel would be our number one priority."
"I think if we're going to enter the pickup segment, we're going to want to try to find a car that's going to tick real pickup credentials."
This correlates with Volkswagen's revival of the Scout brand in America, which it previously confirmed would launch with an electric pickup and SUV with an off-road focus. VW previously said we'd see prototypes in 2023, with production scheduled for 2026. Within days of our interview, VW announced that current American CEO, Scott Keogh, will be moving into a new role as head of Scout, pioneering a 'true American' electric pickup.