Buyers in foreign markets enjoy far greater midsize pickup choice than their counterparts in North America. Besides the usual products from General Motors and Ford (the latter of which we’re only just being introduced to), there’s offerings from Mitsubishi, Fiat, even Volkswagen. Has decades of full-size truck dominance made North America too unforgiving for smaller entries? Sales of the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, and Chevrolet Colorado say otherwise.
There’s midsize ground to be gained here, but no new model faces a guarantee of success. Volkswagen, which sells the body-on-frame Amarok (seen above) overseas, apparently wants to find out how Americans would feel about a smaller, lighter entry in the midsize pickup game. According to sources, it wants to find out this week.
Sources close to the matter tell Automotive NewsÂ VW plans to showcase a unibody truck conceptÂ based on the Atlas midsize crossoverÂ at this week’s New York International Auto Show. The public’s reaction to the concept will guide VW towards a decision to either kill the idea or greenlight it for production.
Many would-be small truck makers can’t get their wares to the U.S. market due to the chicken tax and the high cost of adding tooling (and capacity) to existing facilities. And that’s if the automaker even has U.S. facilities. For VW, the unnamed truck would roll out of its Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant, which stands to gain a second new model in short order. The automaker plans to reveal a sportier,Â five-door variant of the Atlas this week.
While the Amarok boasts 2,400 pounds of payload capacity, this model would go the way of the Honda Ridgeline, offering buyers a familiar, car-like driving experience with the ability to venture tentatively off-road. The truck’s bed would not rest atop leaf springs and a ladder-type frame, making dorm room furniture, not gravel, its most likely occupant.
Long ago, VW sold the Rabbit Pickup in the U.S. to compete against other car-based trucks like the Chevrolet El Camino, Dodge Rampage, and Plymouth Scamp. Canada even bought a military vehicle based on the Rabbit’s bones and used it seemingly forever. This vehicle, if built, would not be quite so dainty.
Is the demand there? Volkswagen would love to discover it is, but the Ridgeline’s story suggests a cautious approach. While reviewers were pleasantly surprised at the second-generation model’s prowess in handling the rough stuff, sales seems to be heading in a direction that requires downshifting and careful use of the brakes.
Thus far, U.S. sales have not reached the level seen in the early years of the first-generation Ridgeline. In February, Ridgeline sales fell 32.3 percent, year over year. Over the first two months of 2018, sales fell 27.4 percent. Compare that to the 55 percent increase in sales of the truck’s platform mate, the Pilot.
[Images: Volkswagen, Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)]