Volkswagen is getting serious about bringing a pickup back to U.S.

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NEW YORK — Volkswagen came to the New York Auto Show with its Tarok compact pickup in tow, and it’s serious about getting into the truck market in the United States. VW of America CEO Scott Keough dropped some details about what just such a vehicle would be like.

“We can come in with an extremely smart price point. I think you could put a vehicle like that in the marketplace for mid-20s with proper engine, proper everything,” Keough says.

At this low price, we’re definitely looking at a significantly smaller and less capable than the current crop of midsize trucks that continue to flood the market, disregarding the relatively affordable but aged Nissan Frontier. We discussed the possibility of VW making a Ranger-based pickup the other day when VW said it was “gauging market interest,” but now we have a clearer view. If does make a pickup for America, it’ll most likely be a unibody based on the MQB platform, a “lifestyle” truck that appeals to folks who aren’t in need of full-size pickup capability. That’s not to say it wouldn’t still be capable in light offroading, but don’t expect to see a body-on-frame, hardcore, Ranger-based VW anytime soon in the U.S. — you’ll recall the Ranger was central to the Ford-VW alliance negotiations, but the VW version of that truck is headed to international markets.

“We have to have our point of view. If in this market there’s a Ranger-Ranger, and a VW Ranger … you have to have a point of view. And I think that’s critical. It’s not our style to just do a rebadging of something like that,” Keough says.

Power from the Tarok’s concept is a meager 147 horsepower from its 1.4-liter turbo, but Keough says that would obviously be changing if VW sold a version of the truck here.

“But obviously we’d be capable of putting a whole assortment of engines into that. We could get upwards of 250, even 300 horsepower, if we wanted to do it. I think the platform can handle it. I think the capabilities are there,” Keough said.

There’s certainly something appealing about being able to get into a nicely optioned VW pickup for around $25,000, especially since even a compact pickup would be about the same size as midsizers from yesteryear. A well-equipped VW at that price would be roughly equal to the starting price of a basic Ford Ranger or Toyota Tacoma, though base prices on Chevy, GMC and Nissan are less, and automakers are known to incentivize in the heavily competitive truck sector.

But Keough said potential buyers for a VW small pickup aren’t necessarily truck buyers now, but people who might be in the market for an SUV.

At this point, nothing is confirmed, but Keough is speaking much more optimistically about the pickup bodystyle than he has in the past.

“We do see a big trend in terms of outdoor enthusiasm,” Keough said, “Do I see more opportunity than I did before? I do.”



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