VW Pickup Could Hinge on Export Potential

A VW executive makes clear a production version of the Tanoak is “definitely not decided” and says the automaker wants to gather feedback on the concept from its stint here at the New York show.

5 Min Read
VW Pickup Could Hinge on Export Potential

NEW YORK – Making a business case for a production version of the MQB-based Volkswagen Tanoak pickup concept could hinge on its export potential.

That is one of the conclusions from Volkswagen of America CEO Hinrich Woebcken during a media roundtable interview at the 2018 New York International Auto Show.

As the unibody pickup rides on VW’s MQB platform, a logical production locale is the German automaker’s Chattanooga, TN, plant, where VW is seeking to raise output levels and where the MQB-based Atlas CUV is assembled.

“We potentially would not only look at the data for demand here in the United States to get business economics together,” Woebcken says, noting VW has been exporting the 7-seat Atlas to Russia and the Middle East. “Maybe then also there is the opportunity of exporting the pickup truck out of the United States and generating scale of economy out of this.”

The only unibody pickup currently on sale in the U.S. is Honda’s Ridgeline, which is assembled at the automaker’s plant in Lincoln, AL. Honda exported 4,740 of the 39,282 Ridgelines it built in Alabama last year, an American Honda spokeswoman says. Vehicles went to 24 countries, mostly those in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

Woebcken doesn’t put a number on how many VW pickups the German automaker would have to move annually in the U.S. to make a business case for the vehicle.

The VW executive makes clear a production version of the Tanoak is “definitely not decided” and says the automaker wants to gather feedback on the concept from its stint at the New York show.

He also isn’t certain if a theoretical VW pickup would be midsize or fullsize. He says VW stretched the MQB platform into nearly a fullsize length for the Tanoak. Fullsize pickups – all of them body-on-frame – have strong commercial use, while midsize models do well with lifestyle-focused buyers.

Combining a contemporary design lineage reminiscent of more recent Volkswagen SUV models with traditional pickup proportions, the 280-hp 3.6L V-6-powered Tanoak has been conceived as part of an eventual three-model Atlas lineup that includes the 7-seat Atlas and 5-seat Atlas Cross Sport, the latter of which also debuted at the New York show.

The front end of the Tanoak takes its styling inspiration from the Atlas. However, the new pickup concept departs quite radically from its CUV sibling toward the rear.

Key design elements include a technical-looking front bumper featuring a metal kickplate and winch within its lower section as well as outer air ducts surrounded by distinctive LED daytime running lamps. In a hint that an eventual production version of the new Volkswagen could take the same name, it is adorned with the word “ATLAS” within a contrasting black middle section.

The Tanoak also receives a newly designed grille with integrated headlamps that wrap around into the front fenders with greater tapering effect than those seen on the existing Atlas. It is highlighted on the concept by a series of LED light bands and an illuminated Volkswagen badge that, in combination with a similar styling effect at the rear, lights up when the concept is unlocked or locked.

Farther back, the wheel arches have been beefed up with additional cladding and are filled with multi-spoke 20-in. wheels shod with 275/55 profile tires. However, the characteristic side feature lines, which extend over the top of the front wheel arches and down the middle of the doors, are retained.

It is behind the B-pillars where the Tanoak gains its own truly unique visual character, with short rear doors that are not immediately recognizable due to the door handles being integrated within the cladding at the base of the C-pillar. There also is a contrasting color for the sills aimed at creating the effect of greater cabin length.

Toward the rear, the cargo box sides receive large rear wheel wells and side feature lines mimicking those up front.

The Tanoak is 4.1 ins. (104 mm) longer, 1.3 ins. (33 mm) wider and 1.8 ins. (46 mm) higher than the Ridgeline.

The exaggerated height of the new Volkswagen concept has been achieved, in part, through a 1.8-in. increase in ground clearance over the Atlas, leading to a bold stance that targets typical North American pickup drivers.

The 4-door dual cab body of the new Volkswagen is combined with a cargo box that extends to 64.0 ins. (1,626 mm) in length and 57.1 ins. (1,450 mm) in width. The width between the rear wheel wells is put at 50.4 ins. (1,280 mm), while the height of the cargo bed is a claimed 20.9 ins. (531 mm).

The lower-hinged tailgate extends the overall length of the cargo box by 24.9 ins. (632 mm) to a total of 90.1 ins. (2,289 mm) when opened. To maximize load space, the concept’s full-sized spare wheel is mounted underneath the cargo box, making it accessible even when it is fully loaded.

Volkswagen claims its latest concept provides seating for up to five, but while the outer two seats at the rear are contoured, the middle rear seat is raised and rather flat. Entry to the cabin, meanwhile, is via four conventional front-hinged doors.   

With 280 hp, the Tanoak delivers the same amount of power but slightly less torque than the 3.5L V-6 used in the second-generation Ridgeline.

The transversely mounted engine channels its drive through an 8-speed automatic transmission and Volkswagen’s multi-plate clutch 4Motion 4-wheel drive system in a combination providing both high- and low-range gearing.

The unveiling of the Tanoak, whose name refers to a tree grown mainly in western North America, comes 18 years after Volkswagen aired its first fullsize pickup concept targeted at U.S. buyers. In 2000, the German automaker revealed the Advanced Activity Vehicle, a unibody pickup concept that previewed the styling of the first-generation Touareg.

[email protected]

Subscribe to a WardsAuto newsletter today!
Get the latest automotive news delivered daily or weekly. With 5 newsletters to choose from, each curated by our Editors, you can decide what matters to you most.

You May Also Like