Volkswagen Tarok: Harbinger of What, Exactly?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

You’ve seen this vehicle on these digital pages before, but Volkswagen now plans to bring its Brazil-bound Tarok unibody pickup to the United States … if only for an appearance at the New York Auto Show.

Yes, the Tarok’s role this week and next is to give U.S. consumers a come-hither look and whisper, “See anything you like, boys? You let me know.” In this case, “me” means VW brass, who have a decision to make.

While Volkswagen is adamant that the Tarok, which rides atop the Atlas’ MQB platform and boasts a similar wheelbase, is not bound for U.S. showrooms, a market-specific model isn’t out of the question.

“Although there are no plans to produce the vehicle for the U.S. market, the Tarok concept is being shown to gauge market reaction for a truly versatile and compact entry-level pickup,” the automaker stated.

VW’s big news last year was the Tanoak concept — an Atlas-based midsizer with an 11-inch wheelbase stretch, aimed at gauging reaction from a truck-loving populace. In the year following, VW failed to pull the trigger on a new entry in the hot, and growing, midsize pickup field. It looks like VW believes a smaller pickup might stand a better chance of success.

Compared to the Tanoak, the smaller Tarok more closely follows the Atlas, with only a fraction of an inch separating the two vehicle’s wheelbases. It sports a four-foot bed, which actually becomes useful after opening the midgate and dropping the tailgate, extending the cargo floor to 6.1 feet. Short overhangs and a metallic, baskethandle C-pillar lends the Tarok a sporty, youthful vibe (note the obligatory surfboard cargo), which just happens to be the market VW’s after. The model goes on sale in South America shortly.

Ground clearance is 9.6 inches, maximum payload capacity is 2,271 pounds, and power is just barely adequate, if that. Keep in mind this truck’s not U.S.-bound, so it makes do with a 147 hp, 1.4-liter four-cylinder. The Jetta’s tiny heart won’t get that surfboard to the beach in record time, that’s for sure.

As it seeks to determine public interest, automaker interest in the currently non-existent American compact truck market is on the rise. While Hyundai’s tempted us for years with its perpetually upcoming Santa Cruz-inspired sport compact, Ford recently got into the game, promising a compact, Focus-based pickup and trademarking the traditionally compact Courier name in the U.S.

Should VW go ahead with a North American-market small pickup, it won’t have the field all to itself.

That said, VW now has a partner that might be able to help. The automaker’s recent alliance with Ford could be called upon to generate a truck for the North American market, Volkswagen of America CEO Scott Keogh said last month.

“We have opportunities to do it ourselves, we have opportunities with Ford. It’s something we are 100 percent investigating,” he said, without mentioning what form the resulting vehicle might take.

[Images: Volkswagen]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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5 of 18 comments
  • JD-Shifty JD-Shifty on Apr 17, 2019

    why would I buy this when I could get ridgeline, tacoma, frontier, etc?

    • See 2 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Apr 18, 2019

      @JD-Shifty I chose a Colorado over a Tacoma. I would probably choose this VW over a Tacoma. This VW comes closest to what I wanted in a smaller truck but I doubt we'll see it in the US--I only wish we would.

  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Apr 17, 2019

    VWvalanche meets Subie Baja.

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.