Like the Atlas, the pickup would be built off the VW brand's highly scalable MQB architecture and aimed at rivals such as the Honda Ridgeline in an increasingly competitive segment. The Ford Ranger, once the top-selling midsize pickup in the U.S. but discontinued in 2011, will return next year. Hyundai is also expected to field a new pickup based on the Santa Cruz concept previewed at the 2015 Detroit auto show.
Volkswagen already markets a midsize pickup called the Amarok in other markets outside of the U.S. through its light commercial vehicles subsidiary headquartered in Hanover. However, it is designed and engineered to be a workhorse and is built on a ladder-type frame to carry heavy payloads like the overwhelming majority in the segment.
By comparison, the concept to be shown in New York will be based on a unibody platform -- similar to the Ridgeline -- and targeted more at lifestyle-oriented pickup owners who don't need to pile 1,950 pounds or more into the bed of the truck.
Made in the USA
While the idea of an emotionally styled, "Made in the USA" pickup is attractive for a brand that wants to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of American consumers, there are doubts whether a positive business case can be made for the concept.
"I don't think anyone will be able to get the cost calculation right since you need the volumes," said another company source familiar with the project. "The Atlas ... and its coming five-seat derivative can get that since both can be sold in China [as the Teramont], but a pickup like this would likely just be for the U.S. and Canadian market."
The 2019 Ridgeline, which starts at $30,965 (including shipping), produced U.S. sales of 34,749 last year. By comparison, the Atlas crossover starts at $31,675 (including shipping).
U.S. sales of midsize pickups, dominated by the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado, rose less than 1 percent to 452,335 last year compared to 2016. Deliveries have jumped 20 percent in the first two months of the year. IHS Markit doesn't expect the segment to top 480,000 sales annually through 2025.