This year’s New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) seems to be a cavalcade of normal cars and refreshes. Not that that’s a bad thing, but there aren’t any really genuine surprises — except for one: Volkswagen’s Tanoak concept, a pickup based on the brand’s new Atlas crossover. Who the hell saw that coming?
Spawned from the Atlas, this new truck concept features VW’s astoundingly versatile MQB platform and is thus a unibody construction, rather than body-on-frame. That’s a rarity in the truck segment save for Honda’s Ridgeline. The brand says it’s powered by a 276-horsepower gasoline V6 and sends that power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic. That’s a perfectly reasonable, albeit staid, setup that sounds suspiciously production-ready.
Except, as it so plainly states in the Tanoak’s press release, it won’t be coming into production, at least not anytime soon: “Although there are currently no production plans for the Atlas Tanoak, Volkswagen is keen to gauge the reactions of buyers and media, since pickup trucks are one of the biggest volume segments in the US.” According to VW’s North American CEO Hinrich J. Woebcken, “It all depends now if [the US] market will appreciate more unibody pickup trucks.”
Well, Volkswagen currently has the aforementioned Ridgeline to look to for guidance. Though its sales figures aren’t close to touching some of its body-on-frame cohorts, the truck did manage to snag about ten percent of the mid-size truck market, as of July 2017. That’s hardly a flop. And though the Ridgeline’s unibody construction hindered its towing capacity somewhat, it bolstered aspects like fuel economy, ride quality and cargo space. For the vast majority of truck buyers who come up far short of using their vehicle’s full capacity, it’s not a bad trade-off.
Here’s another thing to consider: It wasn’t so long ago that most SUVs were body-on-frame. Fast-forward to today, and the market is flooded with crossovers that ape the body-on-frame SUV look but have unibody constructions. Clearly, consumers now realize the benefits those unibody cars have. Is it so far-fetched to believe the same could be said of trucks someday? You don’t know until you try, VW.