Volkswagen wants in on the lucrative North American pickup market and thinks that the Tanoak might just get their foot in the door.
It’s no secret that pickup trucks are a big deal in North America. A little over 16% of all vehicles sold in the US were pickup trucks last year, according to Trucks.com, with the majority of those being full-size pickups built by North American manufacturers. Ford’s F-150 still reigns supreme, but the Chevy Silverado and Ram 1500 are also big slices of the overall pie.
But it’s a big pie, and Volkswagen is hungry for it. That’s why they built the Tanoak pickup concept. Based on VW’s highly successful MQB platform, which they use for practically everything they make now, the Tanoak is powered by a 3.6-L V6 putting out 280 hp. It shares much of its lineage with the Atlas SUV--so much so that it’s often referred to as the Atlas Tanoak.
The Tanoak first debuted at this year’s New York Auto Show along with the Atlas Cross Sport concept. Together with the 7-seat Atlas SUV, the three cars would make a suite of Atlas-derived vehicles that Volkswagen could all make from their Chattanooga Tennessee plant.
But Volkswagen is hesitant to dive into the pickup market. Pickup drivers are very patriotic, and a German pickup truck might just fly completely under the radar of most American truck buyers no matter how good a vehicle it is.
A Volkswagen spokesperson spoke to British car site Autocar to voice their concerns. "The mid-size pickup segment [in the US] is interesting but not a no-brainer. It is below 500,000 sales a year - down from a million but stabilizing and growing again now - and this really is a concept that is being evaluated. It hangs in the balance if we'll make it, and it will depend on reaction at the show, in clinics, and ongoing. The logic is there, but the business case has to fit, and until we get the feedback we can't commit."
Volkswagen is currently trying to gauge interest in the Tanoak to see if they’ll actually bring it into production. It would be extremely convenient to build in the US from readily available parts already seen on the Atlas and would keep construction costs to a minimum, but if nobody is willing to buy it then there’s no point in making it.
So far Volkswagen is angling the Tanoak less as a workman’s vehicle and more as a lifestyle kind of model. It’s not an image that any of the big three truck makers usually go for, and VW hopes the differentiation will help it stand out.
We won’t hear back from VW on the Tanoak for some time yet, so don’t hold your breath.