Volkswagen AG, already developing a luxury sport-utility for the American market, is considering a premium pickup.
The automaker on Monday, Jan. 10, took the wraps off its Advanced Activity Concept, an interpretation of a luxury pickup for Americans. The concept, which seats four, is powered by a turbocharged V-10 diesel that makes 330 hp and 550 pounds-feet of torque.
VW executives bill the concept as a sleek combination of luxury sedan, sport-utility and pickup.
It has a six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic, a feature that lets the driver choose automatic or shift manually.
The idea was spawned by Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech, who likes to use an American extended-cab pickup to take his children mountain biking on the weekends.
'This study is the interplay of European engineering with the American feeling of a vehicle like this without losing the typical Volkswagen identity,' Robert Buechelhofer, Volkswagen group vice president for sales and marketing, said at the Detroit auto show.
If Volkswagen decides to build a pickup for the American market, this luxury concept likely would be the way to enter the crowded segment.
OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM
Volkswagen knows that it cannot compete in the United States against mainstream pickups, said Gerd Klauss, president of Volkswagen of America Inc.
'We know the truck market here in America is huge; it's enormous,' Klauss said. But to think Volkswagen could enter the heart of the full-sized truck market would be a little arrogant, he said.
But an upscale, niche pickup might work, and the automaker will gauge reaction to the Advanced Activity Concept during the auto show, he said.
This kind of pickup could be proudly driven to the opera, or to the mountains on the weekend with bicycles in the bed, Klauss said.
The truck would fit Volkswagen's Driver's Wanted philosophy, Klauss said.
The front end of the concept pickup resembles the front end of Volkswagen's Concept D large luxury concept sedan unveiled last year in Frankfurt.
The A-pillar is steeply raked and the C-pillar slopes down and back toward the truck bed, suggesting a coupe. The bed gate is sloped like the C-pillar, also adding to the feel of a sport coupe.
The truck's rear doors are hinged on the C-pillar, and swing out to the left.
`LET ME AT IT'
'Everybody's experimenting with hybrids, or crossovers, to come up with something new, but out of existing elements,' said Jens Neumann, a Volkswagen AG board of management member. 'We are demonstrating how we could combine elements of a luxury passenger car with the off-road capabilities of a sport-utility and the utility of a pickup truck. We took these three elements and went very upscale because we know we cannot compete with the normal pickup trucks.'
The logic was to demonstrate something technically outstanding, and give drivers a vehicle that fits their active lifestyles, Neumann said.
'Is it a saleable unit?' asked Frank Maguire, director of sales for Volkswagen of America. 'You bet. When I first saw it, I said, `Just let me at it.' '
But Volkswagen must be careful not to Americanize it, he said.