A Volkswagen Pickup Is Too Tempting an Idea to Dismiss, but VW's Still Wary

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The introduction of Volkswagen’s well fleshed-out Tanoak concept at this spring’s New York Auto Show showed just how versatile the company sees its Atlas midsize crossover. Sporting a reasonably useable bed and a design that’s more butch than that of Honda’s unibody Ridgeline, the Tanoak was made to tease.

Would Americans gravitate towards it? Could VW add a full-on truck to its lineup, bolstering its SUV push? These are the questions VW wanted answered before committing extra dollars and Chattanooga assembly plant space to the project.

Apparently, the Tanoak’s still in the running.

While there’s still a strong desire to build the model, no trigger’s been pulled. Volkswagen isn’t rushing into this, as it already has strong sellers on its hands with the redesigned Tiguan and Atlas. A sportier Atlas variant is on the way. Volkswagen of America’s sales rose 12.7 percent in July, year over year, and the brand’s 2018 volume tops the same period last year by 8 percent.

“It fits the brand well, because we want to get more American in the U.S., but it’s something we have to look at carefully,” Hinrich Woebcken, VW’s U.S. boss, recently told Autocar. “It’s a very patriotic segment, which American manufacturers dominate.”

Still, there’s encouraging figures emerging from the midsize pickup segment. Toyota’s Tacoma saw its sales rise 25.7 percent, year over year, in July, with year-to-date volume up 23.3 percent. General Motors no longer provides monthly sales data, but the second quarter of 2018 saw the Chevrolet Colorado’s volume up 46.8 percent over Q2 2017. Over the first six months of 2018, Colorado sales rose 38.9 percent — a gain of almost 20,000 units. The GMC Canyon’s second-quarter volume rose 30.9 percent, year over year. As of the end of June, Canyon sales climbed 13.2 percent on a YTD basis.

That’s not to say there aren’t stragglers. As it continues cutting back on incentive spending, Nissan’s ancient (but cheap) Frontier saw July demand fall 40.1 percent, year over year. However, the model’s still up on year-to-date volume — by 1.8 percent.

Honda’s Ridgeline, though well regarded by reviewers, continues its struggle. The sole unibody truck model in the U.S. declined by 3.2 percent in July, with YTD volume down 17.5 percent. With Ford’s long-awaited Ranger just months away, Volkswagen’s no doubt consulting its crystal ball, asking: Is the Tanoak sufficiently trucky enough to carve out a niche among American consumers?

[Images: Volkswagen of America]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • RHD RHD on Aug 07, 2018

    It will sell only if there's a compelling reason for people to buy this over Ford, Chevy, Nissan, Honda, Toyota or Ram. That neon tailgate and illuminated badge should be toned way down before production begins. It might be a pretty good truck, but any construction worker who shows up at the job site in a VW had better have very thick skin and/or very poor hearing.

    • Clueless Economist Clueless Economist on Aug 08, 2018

      Not aimed at those guys. It is aimed at those of us who what the utility of a truck but don't really need the hauling, off-road prowess or bad gas mileage.

  • Jalop1991 Jalop1991 on Aug 07, 2018

    let's get a pool together on how long it takes the first dealer to market a bundle of the truck with a GTI in the bed.

  • Ronin The very asking of the question "Are Plug-In Hybrids the Future?" is an interesting one. Because just 2 or 3 years ago we'd be asking- no, asserting- that E cars are the future. We're no longer asking that question.
  • Peter Benn There apparently were some K-code 4-dr sedan Fairlanes. Collectible Automobile Apr 2024 has found a '63 500 with HD 3/spd.
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  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
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