CHICAGO — Nearly two years ago, Volkswagen showed off the Atlas Tanoak concept, a midsize pickup truck based on the Atlas crossover. It had rugged, truck-like looks, and according to VW's Vice President of Product Marketing and Strategy, Hein Schafer, it was extremely well-received. Unfortunately, Schafer also explained that the odds of it reaching production are slim to none.
The reasons are many and make lots of sense. First of all, it would take a large amount of development time and money to adapt the Atlas into a pickup truck with reasonably competitive capability, and even then, he said that it probably wouldn't be as capable as traditional body-on-frame trucks. He did note that they could probably get it to be comparable to the Honda Ridgeline, but looking at how small the Ridgeline's sales are, both trucks would be vying for a very small part of the market, which wouldn't work well with the large investment needed to develop a production Tanoak and market it.
Not all hope is lost for a VW pickup, though. Schafer noted that something smaller, like the Tarok concept shown at the New York Show last year and possibly based on the upcoming subcompact crossover for North America, has more potential. He said it was well received, just like the Tanoak. It also wouldn't have the stiff competition that the midsize truck segment has. Schafer also noted it could be marketed more as a lifestyle vehicle with less focus on major capability. As an added bonus, if this hypothetical truck were based on the new crossover, it could probably built at the same Puebla, Mexico factory where there's plenty of manufacturing capacity and production and importation would be affordable.
These possibilities are far from concrete, though, and as Motor Trend reported, VW's COO is giving pickup plans a pretty low priority, and even if they did move ahead, he would prefer seeing an electric truck. And if that were to happen, it would almost certainly be something based on the new EQB electric platform, not an existing or near-future gas-powered platform. In short, the Tanoak is effectively a no-go, but maybe we'll see a different kind of VW truck in the future. Maybe.