After a lot of back and forth, at least we finally have an honest answer

Volkswagen showed up to the 2019 New York Auto Show with the Tanoak Pickup concept. Based on the Volkswagen Atlas, the Tanoak concept was fairly well received. So well, in fact, that Volkswagen was even considering bringing it to market. Things were looking so well for the Tanoak, that we even made a rendering of it based on the Atlas at the time. Despite the well reception, though, there was a major question that had to be addressed: Does the market really need another midsized, unibody pickup truck? Can a company that’s hardly touched the pickup segment globally really step in the ring and throw down with brands like Ford, Chevy, or Toyota? As it turns out, the answer is no. Volkswagen knows it, and that’s why the Tanoak will never move beyond the concept stage. Well, at least not in its current form….

Volkswagen Can’t Compete With the Americans in the Pickup Truck Segment

Volkswagen Won't Build the Atlas-Based Tanoak Pickup Because It Knows It Can't Compete With the Americans Exterior
- image 775633

Volkswagen might be able to razzle and dazzle the American populous with its wide range of SUVs and, to a lesser extent, hatchbacks and sedans. But, when it comes to pickup trucks, we American’s aren’t only loyal to our favorite brands, but we’re damn picky about the trucks we drive. There’s a reason that the Honda Ridgeline takes up a very tiny percentage of the pickup truck market – it’s more of a novelty than something that can actually be considered a capable truck. And, that’s exactly what the Volkswagen Tanoak would have been.

During the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, Senior VP of Marketing & Strategy for VW USA, Hein Schafer, elaborated on just that:

”I think, just in terms of platform limitations, and I think in terms of sheer volume capacity to be able to do something like that, it just doesn’t pencil, So that concept is still pretty much dead.”
Volkswagen Won't Build the Atlas-Based Tanoak Pickup Because It Knows It Can't Compete With the Americans Exterior
- image 775629

And, a major part of the company’s reluctance to build the Tanoak as a production model boils down to the inability to compete with other models that have been long-established on the market:

”So, you’ve basically spent a hell of a big investment to, at best, deliver a Honda Ridgeline, which is sitting at what? Three, four percent of segment. And that’s the difficulty. If you don’t do the job right—I mean how do you take on an F-150 or a Toyota Tundra?”

And, it should be noted that even the Toyota Tundra struggles to keep up with models from Ford, Chevy, and Ram. As American companies that, for the most part, created the pickup truck market, outsiders have absolutely no ground to stand on.

”You know, Toyota have been trying forever with competent vehicles. Nissan have been trying forever and the American manufacturers kind of have that tied up.”
Volkswagen Won't Build the Atlas-Based Tanoak Pickup Because It Knows It Can't Compete With the Americans Exterior
- image 775632

With this in mind, however, that doesn’t mean that the book is sealed when it comes to a VW-branded pickup truck in the U.S. market. With electric pickup trucks just now starting to become a thing, it’s quite possible that VW could take a stab at the electric truck segment. All models coming to the market in the next few years are new, and all will need to make their mark on the world. As Schafer said in his statement, brand loyalty will still play a role, but it won’t be as prominent as it is in the current pickup truck market. So, a midsized electric pickup with a VW badge? That could happen someday, but for right now, Volkswagen is going to focus on other things, so don’t expect to see it anytime soon.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas Specifications
Engine 2.0L inline four cylinder, 16V, turbocharged/intercooled, FSI 3.6L VR6
Bore 3.25 in 3.50 in
Stroke 3.65 in 3.80 in
Compression Ratio 9.6:1 12.0:1
Horsepower (SAE) @ rpm 235 @ 4500 276 @ 6200
Maximum torque, lb-ft @ rpm 258 @ 1600 266 @ 2750
Towing 2000 lb 2000-5000 lb

Source: vwVortex

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topsped.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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