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Volkswagen Mulls Electric Pickup Truck for U.S.

During a product presentation ahead of the reveal of the all-new seven-seater 2024 Volkswagen Atlas and five-seater Atlas Cross Sport SUVs, the German automaker’s Hein Schafer, SVP of product marketing and strategy, told a roundtable of journalists that the next product focus will be a U.S. pickup—a move likely to be welcomed by dealer networks desperate for an offering in the ever-popular truck segment. (It might not look like the van-based Tristar concept from 2014 below, but it’d be cool if it did. )

“I know the question we’ll get at the end is ‘Are we getting a pickup?'” Schafer quipped. “I might as well address that right up front right now. We are still investigating a pickup, it’s not currently in our cycle plan.” During the roundtable, Schafer outlined the current cycle of VW product investment, with Atlas, Cross Sport, Tiguan, and Taos on the internal combustion side, and the ID4, ID Buzz, ID7 sedan, and a planned midsize EV SUV on the all-electric side of the portfolio.

“As you can see, this of course, takes a lot of investment,” Schafer added. “To double up your investment on both sides of the fence, we’re a 2 – 2.5 percent [profit margin] brand, and this [product development] costs a lot of money,” hence VW’s delay in developing a pickup truck up until now, despite probably a decade of dealer groups asking about it.

Schafer doubled down on the pickup development: “At the end of the day, we are looking at a pickup. We wanted to get our SUV portfolio right. But for sure, definitely the next focus for us will be a pickup.”

As for market position or competitors, it’s still early days and there’s no clear target just yet. “We can’t confirm exactly what size it will be and where it will go,” Schafer confirmed; “Whether we’ll go head-to-head with the midsize pickups, the Fords and Chevys of the world, or whether it might be something a little bit smaller, kind of Ranger sized, we can’t confirm as yet,” Schafer elaborated.

Schafer also confirmed this pickup ideation is completely separate from plans to launch the Scout brand with an all-electric truck in the next couple of years; “I think what we’re probably likely to say is that it will not be a gas-powered pickup. So, it’s more than likely to be an electric-powered pickup. It’s a big segment and a very profitable segment in the U.S. market. “

As for a timetable, well, it’s a ways off still. VW is stopping short of confirming it will go ahead and produce a pickup; as Schafer made clear, they’re exploring ideas and trying to find where they’d fit in the market.

In later discussions between a VW senior product planner and MotorTrend, we got further insight into the company’s approach to a truck. VW is nervous about Honda’s experience with turning the Pilot into the Ridgeline pickup, which resulted in less-than-stellar sales and minimal market impact. VW’s is hoping for a bigger splash with whatever they might develop, or they may not deem it worth the trouble. Still, this insight could suggest the Atlas platform is under consideration to be truck-ified. 

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