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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
a volkswagen pickup is too tempting an idea to dismiss but vws still wary

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]

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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.

  • Dave M. Although the effective takeover by Daimler is pooped upon, this is one they got right. I wasn't a fan of the LHs, mostly due to reported mechanical, NVH and build quality issues, but I though Chrysler hit it out of the park with the LXs. The other hyped release that year was the Ford Five Hundred, which, while a well-built car with superior interior space, couldn't hold a candle to the 300.
  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.
  • Cardave5150 I've had 2 different 300's - an '08 300SRT and an '18 300C. Loved them both a LOT, although, by the time I had the second one, I wasn't altogether thrilled with the image of 300's out on the street, as projected by the 3rd or 4th buyers of the cars.I always thought that the car looked a little stubby behind the rear wheels - something that an extra 3-4" in the trunk area would have greatly helped.When the 300 was first launched, there were invitation-only meet-and-greets at the dealerships, reminding me of the old days when new model-year launches were HUGE. At my local dealer, they were all in formalwear (tuxes and elegant dresses) with a nice spread of food. They gave out crystal medallions of the 300 in a sweet little velvet box (I've got mine around the house somewhere). I talked to a sales guy for about 5 minutes before I asked if we could take one of the cars out (a 300C with the 5.7 Hemi). He acted like he'd been waiting all evening for someone to ask that - we jumped in the car and went out - that thing, for the time, seemed to fly.Corey - when it comes time for it, don't forget to mention the slightly-stretched wheelbase 300 (I think it was the 300L??). I've never found one for sale (not that I've looked THAT hard), as they only built them for a couple of years.
  • Jkross22 "I’m doing more for the planet by continuing to drive my vehicle than buying a new one for strictly frivolous reasons."It's not possible to repeat this too much.
  • Jeff S Got to give credit to Chrysler for putting the 300 as a rear wheel drive back on the market. This will be a future classic.