By on April 2, 2018

Image: VW of America

Volkswagen’s Atlas Tanoak concept was one of the few interesting products to emerge from last week’s New York auto show, but the Atlas-based pickup remains a one-off for now. The automaker plans to judge consumer interest before making a decision to scrap the idea or sign off on a production version. Naturally, with VW staking it’s U.S. fortunes on light trucks, the volume-seeking company would like to get as much mileage out of its Atlas architecture as possible. See the two-row  Atlas Cross Sport for Exhibit B.

But does the Tanoak’s future hinge on Americans expressing an overwhelming desire for a VW truck? Not entirely.

According to Wards Auto, Volkswagen of America CEO Hinrich Woebcken’s gaze doesn’t end at the continent’s perimeter. The Tanoak’s production could hinge on foreign demand.

“We potentially would not only look at the data for demand here in the United States to get business economics together,” Woebcken said at a media roundtable last week. “Maybe then also there is the opportunity of exporting the pickup truck out of the United States and generating scale of economy out of this.”

The automaker’s Chattanooga plant, which produces the Atlas (and its future variants, if green-lit), has a potential annual production capacity of 500,000 vehicles. It isn’t using close to that amount. Currently, workers in Chattanooga build only the Atlas and dwindling Passat, with the three-row MQB platform crossover recently going on sale in the Middle East and Russia.

So, production capacity isn’t a roadblock for a potential U.S. VW truck, just its market. U.S. buyers looking for an unusual pickup might one day have overseas interest to thank for their new Tanoak, but other problems remain. In creating the Tanoak concept, VW stretched the donor Atlas’ wheelbase by 11 inches in order to craft a useable bed. This puts the Tanoak, as we know it now, dangerously close to full-size territory, Woebken said.

For marketing purposes as much as anything else, VW has to first decide what it wants the Tanoak to be: a midsize lifestyle pickup, or a brawnier, more capable full-size.

Should interest surpass VW brass’ wildest expectations, we wonder whether Chattanooga’s production of the Tanoak, Atlas, its five-seater derivative, and the Passat would alter VW’s tentative plans to utilize the plant for electric vehicles. Late last year, VW brand boss Herbert Diess said Chattanooga was the automaker’s “first choice” for production of I.D.-branded EVs.

[Images: Volkswagen]

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26 Comments on “It Might Take More Than American Enthusiasm to Make This Volkswagen Truck a Reality...”


  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Where is the American enthusiasm for a VW pickup? Judging from comments I’ve read here and elsewhere, this thing’s a non-starter.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      The same was said about the Ridgeline. But it developed a following over time, as in “If They Build It, They Will Come.”

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        VW reliability isn’t Honda reliability.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          I agree, but there will always be some gamblers who will adopt an unknown quantity.

          Plenty of precedence, like when Nissan put out the Titan. People howled. People laughed. People rolled on the floor.

          Now people who need easy credit are buying them as an alternative to the unaffordable pickup trucks from Ford, GM, RAM and Toyota.

          Priced a Ridgeline lately? It’ll water your eyes but they’re still selling them.

          A lady friend of the family bought an RTL for $40K. That smarts!

          There’s room for the Tanoak. Think of all those VW enthusiasts out there, looking for a modest pickup truck from their brand.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I wouldn’t call the Tanoak modest–not at that size nor that price.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            The price of rice and rent keeps going up, and what was once considered a midsize is now called a large or full-size.

            The Tanoak fits the Ridgeline niche.

            And that is all it needs to be for the people that choose to buy them.

            And buy them they will.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            So many non-truths, so little time.

        • 0 avatar
          vehic1

          And the Tanoak styling – thankfully – isn’t the dull, frumpy Ridgeline styling. VW also had a higher % sales increase this month than Honda.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Much too big for my wants and needs; it’s even bigger than the Honda Ridgeline and only marginally smaller than a full-sized pickup. My needs are developing into a 5000# towing capacity and a 1000# (plus driver and one passenger) load capacity. The smaller mid-sized pickups can handle this, as well as some even smaller trucks that we’ll likely never see in the US (but which I would rather see.)

    The Tanoak may be built in what was once my home town but the odds are greatly against me buying one.

  • avatar
    gasser

    What is that bed??? Is is even 5’? And that grew the wheelbase 11”?? Perhaps this requires a rethink of the whole compact/smaller than midsize truck idea. Maybe these are not meant to be crew cabs?? What is the smallest bed that is still acceptable??? Can’t this bed stick way out over the rear wheels, like in the olden times?? When everyone wants a 6’ bed and the room of a 4 door crew, how much smaller than a Colorado can it get?

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      As someone with a quad cab Dakota that has a short bed (5’3″) I don’t understand the need for 7 foot beds. If I need more room I just fold down the tailgate. 95% of items fit just fine. The biggest thing I’ve had in the bed was a jon boat – it stuck out 4 foot. So we strapped it in real good and put an orange flag on it… no problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      About the only place where it might be “smaller” than a Colorado is in its length and maybe (only maybe) its overall height. It’s wider than a Ridgeline, which is itself wider than a Colorado while it is also taller than a Ridgeline; mostly due to a taller stance. I cannot, in any honesty, consider the Tanoak a “mid-sized” pickup truck.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Put the V10 they make in it and a solid front axle, it would have a real chance of competing with Jeep and help to get rid of the ho-hum, boring cars only stigma that is VW.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    I’d still rather have a Transporter. Same goes for that electric microbus concept. Just give me the Transporter.

  • avatar
    ernest

    I’m trying to imagine what alternate universe I’d be in driving a VW pickup. Can’t even begin to wrap my head around that idea…

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      ernest,
      VW pickup are commonplace in Australia and they don’t look half bad. I hope VW realise if they want to keep in the game they will need a new pickup very soon and this will not cut it in the global market.

  • avatar
    RHD

    If they don’t sell, VW just has to add a body-colored shell to the back and the gullible will think it’s an SUV.

    Seriously, though, there is a space in the market for a simple pickup with a 7 foot bed and a 1000 lb. cargo capacity. Price it below every other truck on the market, so it’s affordable as a first new vehicle purchase, or as an alternative to an economy car. If Scion were still around, they would be the logical dealership to carry the small truck. Maybe VW could offer it if they were to bring Skoda to the US. It would sell much better than the Tanoak, and get people in to the showroom.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      RHD,
      The only way to lower US pickup prices is by importing them. VW Amarok is an expensive pickup and it’s made in Argentina. A US built pickup will be a lot more expensive. Is it worth it?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    After reading this article I don’t think the Tanoak will get a start in life.

    This vehicle is not suited to the global market. Who will buy it in sufficient quantities?

    VW already have a global midsize, which is moderately successful. Why would VW risk another very similar size and less capable platform?

    The US so far has shown it can’t even compete within the global midsize BOF style pickup boom, so how can it compete with this made in the USA?

    • 0 avatar
      ernest

      Let’s get that record straight.

      Toyota sold 524,000 Hilux pickups in ’16, making it the largest selling non-US pickup- worldwide. Izuzu sold 296,000 D-Max’s, making it #2. Ford sold 207,000 Rangers for third best. These are worldwide numbers.

      I’m adding up about 1,000,000 units combined. Now Ford sold damned near that many F-Series in the US and Canada alone. GM was right behind them. Toss in another 600,000 Rams, and about 300,000 Tacomas and Tundras (NA models only), and you have what… 2,700,000 pickups built by/for the North American market ALONE. You can have the rest of the world market share, we’ll keep ours. (grins),

      source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/348631/best-selling-pickup-trucks-worldwide/

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        ernest,
        The article is about producing the Tanoak in the US for “other” markets, not what the US sells in it’s highly socialised and protective pickup market.

        I pointed out the US doesn’t have much of an export (not including NAFTA) market for pickups that’s large. It’s quite niche.

        If the US pickup is that competitive, again, as I pointed out why is the US not captialising on the global mid size pickup boom? The US is not competitive at building pickups. I can pretty much state this as fact supported by; ie, chicken tax, CAFE structure, EPA FE for “trucks”, tow limits on vehicles, etc. All these regulations contribute to the promotion and protection of US large pickups and pickup truck station wagons.

        Regarding your story/paradigm. What if globals were available in the US market, what would the breakdown of sales look like then?

        I would think the Hilux (524,000) would rival the F Series or at a minimum beat the Silverado, just looking at the figures you have given.

        Now, you also have brought into the debate, heavy duty pickups. Lets compare apples to apples (red to green) based on capability. The US pickup truck numbers would drop significantly, especially the F Series and the Hilux if introduced without the Chicken Tax (and other barriers) into the US would most likely be the biggest selling pickup in the US.

        How many light trucks are sold on the global market outside of midsizers?

        The US pickup truck as you are using the term covers a vast range of truck sizes.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @Big Al: To what you just said, “The article is about producing the Tanoak in the US for “other” markets, not what the US sells in it’s highly socialised and protective pickup market. …” I agree with the entire comment.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        ernest,
        Sorry, I’ll rephrase;

        “Now, you also have brought into the debate, heavy duty pickups. Lets compare apples to apples (red to green) based on capability. The US pickup truck numbers would drop significantly, especially the F Series and the Hilux if introduced without the Chicken Tax (and other barriers) into the US would most likely be the biggest selling pickup in the US.”

        The F-150 is only 65% of the 1 million F Series. Using that as a comparison I would think the over 1/2 million Hiluxes, plus the Tacoma would be a Hilux would make it the largest selling pickup globally.

        It’s good to use data, but the data has to be comparable and relevant. A F-450 has less in common than a Tacoma vs Hilux vs 70 Series.

        Also, don’t forget Toyota manufacture other midsize pickups, the 70 Series. How many of them are sold globally. Hino also sell light trucks as well. If you add all of these together I do believe Toyota might sell as many, if not more trucks of comparable capability as Ford.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          The Hilux “would most likely be the biggest seller in the US….”

          @BAFO – With all due respect, where do you get such outlandish thoughts? Medically induced?

          Where does one begin?

          Yes the Tacoma is “different” except it has more similarities with the Hilux than dissimilarities.

          You can call it “protection” (all you want!) when the US rates US market pickups conservatively for cargo carrying. It’s to “protect” the safety/lives of Americans actually.

          Australia, Africa, etc cargo “ratings” for pickups are very “hands off”, basically letting pickup manufacturers decide “ratings” for themselves.

          You have no USDOT, NHTSA, SAE, “equivalent”.

          I can show you a “CarAdvice” full comparison article of OZ market “Utes”, and when filled to about 75% of their payload “ratings”, handling became rather scary on some Utes!

          So let me know when you’re ready to have rational (sober!) discussion.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            caradvice.com.au/388419/ute-comparison-ford-ranger-v-holden-colorado-v-isuzu-d-max-v-mazda-bt-50-v-mitsubishi-triton-v-nissan-navara-v-toyota-hilux-v-volkswagen-amarok-2/?&ca_rd=route


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