Is there pent-up appeal for a pickup smaller and cheaper than the Chevrolet Colorado, Toyota Tacoma, and Ford Ranger?
The question's a real one for many automakers, but VW may be one of the first to have come up with an answer, or at least a clue, with the Tarok.
The Tarok is a Brazil-bound truck shown Wednesday at the 2019 New York auto show in concept form. It's based on the automaker's versatile MQB platform, and it's similar in wheelbase to the full-size Atlas SUV, although the Tarok is much smaller overall.
Less than a day after Volkswagen pulled the covers off a pickup concept bound for production in Brazil, VW CEO Scott Keogh said the "opportunity is pressing itself a little more now" to sell a truck in the U.S. again. VW sold a small Rabbit pickup in the U.S. until 1984.
“We’ve been looking at this for a while now, it’s probably the biggest open…white space in our portfolio," Keogh said Tuesday.
If sold in the U.S., the Tarok would be smaller than the mid-sizers already on the market, which Keogh said would be its appeal.
Small enough to navigate cities and parking spaces as well as narrow trails, a potential VW small pickup could cost around $25,000 to start if it were produced.
""It makes dramatically more sense to have a smaller footprint...(and) you have to hit that price point, and I think we can," he said.
Keogh admitted that VW isn't yet ready to talk about price, size, volume, or even viability, but said the automaker would consider selling a pickup in the U.S. again that could slot below larger competitors—if it even competes with them at all.
"I wouldn’t view that vehicle as a pickup…I think it’ll be an SUV competitor," he said.
Looming in the background is VW's partnership with Ford, which will produce a pickup for other countries. The next-generation Ford Ranger will be the underpinnings for the next Volkswagen Amarok, and while Keogh conceded that the Amarok could be sold in the U.S., he said a badge-engineered pickup wouldn't be in the automaker's best interest.
"Certainly that’s something we’ll look at going forward...but I also know that we have our point of view," he said.
That point of view could be a small pickup with a low price point. Last year, VW debuted an Atlas-sized, mid-size pickup—the Tanoak—that was reportedly scrapped due to its high price point.
"When you enter any segment, you want to have your point of view—you don’t want to mimic what’s already there...because people will just go with what they already know," he said.