It Might Take More Than American Enthusiasm to Make This Volkswagen Truck a Reality

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
it might take more than american enthusiasm to make this volkswagen truck a reality

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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  • RHD RHD on Apr 03, 2018

    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.

    • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Apr 03, 2018

      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?

  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Apr 03, 2018

    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?

    • See 5 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Apr 03, 2018

      @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.

  • VoGhost Matt, you say 'overpriced', but don't you mean 'underpriced'? It's when a manufacturer underprices, that dealers add their markup. If they were overpriced, the dealers would discount.
  • Bobbysirhan I'm surprised by the particular Porsches to make the list, and also by the Cadillac. Most of all, I'm shocked that the 2-door Mini Cooper is on here. I didn't even know they still made them, let alone that anyone was still buying them.
  • Ajla I assume the CT5 is on the list due to the Blackwing variant.It would be interesting to take the incentives that existed in October 2019 and include that in an analysis like this as well. The thing about the used market is that while you'll pay less in total dollars, in some cases the percentage increase from 2019 is even worse than with new cars. Buying a Saturn Relay for $6k isn't exactly a winning move.
  • VoGhost Reminder: dealers exist to line the pockets of millionaires who contribute to local politicians.
  • Cprescott The pandemic changed the sales game. No longer do dealerships need inventory. After two years people are accustomed to having to order what they want and then extorted on the price by the dealer for that privilege. Now used cars with 75k are selling for $5k more than I paid for my 21k, 2016 model back in January 2019. I pray my car won't get totaled and I have but 13 payments left to make on it. I may never buy another car again.