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VW Unveils a Pickup Truck Concept For Americans

Volkswagen has unveiled the Atlas Tanoak, pickup truck concept named after a species of tree native to the U.S. West Coast, a signal that the German automaker is considering chasing one of the biggest volume segments in America.

The dual-cab short-bed pickup is just a concept, a detail VW was quick to highlight in the announcement Thursday. While there are no production plans for the truck, Volkswagen said it’s “keen to gauge the reactions of buyers and media, since pickup trucks are one of the biggest volume segments.”

Some of the best-selling vehicles in the U.S. last year were trucks, notably Ford’s F-series, GM’s Chevrolet Silverado, and Fiat Chrysler’s Ram.

The reaction by media, which mobbed the vehicle Thursday at the New York International Auto Show, suggested interest and surprise.

The concept, which is 214.1 inches long with nearly 10 inches of ground clearance, is modeled after an extended wheelbase Atlas, the SUV with three rows of seating that went on sale in 2017. The pickup truck is powered by a 276-horsepower V6 gasoline engine and is equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system.

Inside the concept truck are modern digital controls. It also has a movable rail for cargo over the truck bed.

Volkswagen Group unveiled Thursday, March 28, 2018, a concept pickup truck at the New York International Auto Show.
Courtesy of VW Group

The pickup truck is based on VW’s MQB platform, an architecture that can accommodate a variety of engine options, including hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. It’s the same platform used on the Atlas, and a new smaller five-passenger sport utility vehicle, both of which will be built at a factory in Chattanooga, Tenn.

All of these vehicles—and perhaps someday the pickup truck—are an effort by VW to capture 5% of the U.S. market share, up from its current 2%. The automaker has been shifting from smaller sedans to larger vehicles like crossovers and SUVs to hit its long-stated market share goal.