Here in the United States, Volkswagen has spent the last few decades concentrating on zippy compacts, nouveau-retro rides, and the occasional big-boned people mover. Abroad, however, VW cranks out a greater range of models—and has plans for even more, like the small pickup truck called the Volkswagen Tarok seen here. According to VW of America CEO Scott Keough, though, a compact pickup like the Tarok could make its way to our shores eventually—and it could be the deal of the year when it arrives.
“We can come in with an extremely smart price point,” Keough told Autoblog during the New York Auto Show. “I think you could put a vehicle like that in the marketplace for [the] mid-20s with proper engine, proper everything.”
Keough cited the uptick in people seeking exploration-ready vehicles as one reason why the time might be right for VW to jump into the American truck market.
“We do see a big trend in terms of outdoor enthusiasm,” Keough said. “Do I see more opportunity than I did before? I do.”
Assuming said vehicle would be as well-equipped at Keough’s quote suggests, a price point in the mid-$20,000 range would mean the VW truck could be thousands cheaper than comparable versions of other compact trucks like the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma.
That said, the VW pickup is expected to be something of a different animal than the burly body-on-frame trucks Americans are used to. The Tarok—which will go on sale in South America later this year, but just so happened to co-star VW’s booth at the NY Auto Show alongside the Atlas Basecamp Concept—is based on the same MQB platform as the VW Jetta and Golf compacts, the Atlas SUV, and the Audi TT roadster, among many, many other vehicles. At 193.5 inches long, it’s nearly a foot and a half shorter than the Honda Ridgeline, the other four-door unibody pickup truck on sale in the US these days. Like the defunct Chevrolet Avalanche, the cargo bay can be extended into the cabin to carry longer items, stretching the 47.5-inch bed out an additional 25.8 inches.
Any US version would likely need more beef beneath the hood than the dinky 147-horsepower turbocharged inline-four found in the Tarok, which comes connected to a six-speed automatic and an all-wheel-drive system with off-road driving modes. But that shouldn’t be a problem, according to the VW of America CEO.
“Obviously we’d be capable of putting a whole assortment of engines into [the pickup], Keough told Autoblog. “We could get upwards of 250, even 300 horsepower, if we wanted to do it.”
And if they do, the buyers seem likely to come. The compact pickup truck market is experiencing something of a renaissance these days, even in spite of a lack of fresh product. The Ford Ranger may be new to America for 2019, but it’s been on sale elsewhere since 2011; the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon date back to 2012, the beloved Tacoma has been around since 2015, and the Nissan Frontier—yes, it’s still on sale—has been sitting in showrooms since 2004. So it would seem there’s plenty of room for other automakers to dive into the American pickup ecosystem, especially at a price comparable to a mid-level Honda Accord…and especially if it looks as good as the Tarok.
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