Pickups are a slam-dunk for sales in the U.S. and Volkswagen has long been sitting on the sidelines. The company's U.S. executives are raring to get on the court with a pickup of their own, and they're taking a new pitch to the head office later this year.
As reported by Motor Authority, VW will take a fresh look at entering the U.S. pickup market. President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, Pablo Di Si, told the outlet that the matter will be raised with VW's board in Germany in the third quarter of this year.
Of course, Volkswagen already builds a pickup truck for international markets, in the form of the Amarok. The mid-sized truck is now based on the global Ford Ranger. However, the company's joint agreement with Ford would make it very difficult to produce and sell the Amarok Stateside. VW's Scout brand is also in the process of developing an EV pickup of its own, but executives have already stated that the Scout products won't be a part of the VW lineup.
Instead, according to Di Si, the plan is to explore the idea of a pickup specifically developed for America. He notes that this model has proven successful before, citing the Atlas SUV as an example.
Educated speculation would suggest that the Atlas could serve as a suitable base for a unibody pickup. VW actually explored this idea before with a 2018 concept build. The Atlas entered production in 2017, later receiving a refresh for the 2021 model year. VW has since revealed a new 2024 facelift for the model at the 2023 Chicago Auto Show.
Given any new truck would be a few years away, hybrid power would be more likely for an Atlas-based pickup. According to Andrew Savvas, VW's North American Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, the next generation of Atlas is potentially going to be electrified anyway. Di Si indicated to Motor Authority that it could land as a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid, but noted the latter was more impactful. The company has also contemplated building an electric truck that would take advantage of the step-change in technology to lure customers away from domestic manufacturers.
Of course, to dodge the Chicken Tax, such a pickup would have to be assembled in the U.S. to be cost competitive. That's no big problem, as the Atlas is already manufactured in VW's plant in Chatanooga, Tennessee. If VW did go the hybrid route, it would also want to source battery materials domestically. This would allow the truck to qualify for incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act.
In any case, Di Si has been pushing this barrow a long time. He was responsible for the development of the Tarok truck concept that the company brought to the New York International Auto Show back in 2019.
Di Si's push to get a pickup for the U.S. stands in stark contrast to the reluctance of the German side of the company to dive in. Global head of the VW brand, Thomas Schäfer, stated clearly in November last year that there were no plans to bring a pickup to the U.S. He outlined that VW's lineup in the U.S. was set for the next decade and that there was no truck on the cards.
Volkswagen isn't the only brand eager to get a foothold in the juicy pickup market, either. Mitsubishi is similarly eager to start selling trucks in the U.S. again. Hurdles faced by the Japanese automaker include finding the right manufacturing partner with factories in the U.S. to avoid the Chicken Tax, and finding the right model to appeal to American tastes.
Executives will have their work cut out for them to convince VW's head office to sign off on a pickup truck for the U.S. On the one hand, the market is hot, with smaller trucks like the Ford Maverick showing there's more market to be had. On the other hand, other automakers are rushing for a slice of the pie, and it's never good to be late to the party. Let's hope the business decision comes down in favor of more cool trucks coming Stateside.
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