NEW YORK (Reuters) – Volkswagen AG ( VOWG_p.DE ) presented a prototype pickup on Wednesday at the New York Auto Show, which would fill a gap in the American product range of the German company what is one of the most profitable segments of the American market.
The German automaker said cab, short seat concept The Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak pickup truck could be built from its platform in Chattanooga, Tennessee, from the same platform where it builds the Atlas SUV and the Passat.
Volkswagen said it has no production plans for a pickup in the US at the moment, but "is looking forward to buyers and media reactions as pickups are one of the largest volume segments in the US." The vehicle could use pickups like the Honda Ridgeline, executives said.
"We want to be a relevant player in this market and we definitely want to be a full-line automaker," said Hinrich Woebcken, head of the North American region for VW, told reporters in New York on Tuesday. "We want to be more American."
Pickups accounted for approximately 16 percent of US car sales in 2017 and the best-selling vehicle is Ford Motor Co's F-Series pickups.
VW sells the Amarok pickup truck in Europe and other markets, but not in the United States, where it faces an import tariff of 25 percent. VW last sold a pickup in the USA in the mid-1980s.
The Tanoak, named after a species of tree native to the Pacific Coast of the United States, is 214.1 inches long and about 15.8 inches longer than the Atlas, making it a large mid-size pickup to US standards ,
Last week, VW announced it would invest $ 340 million to build a new sport utility vehicle at its Tennessee plant as demand for larger vehicles increases.
The vehicle will be a five-passenger SUV, which will be branded as part of the company's Atlas family and will go on sale next year. A concept version called Atlas Cross Sport Concept was presented on Tuesday evening before the Auto Show.
The investment announcement is positive news for the US auto industry at a time when it is looking forward to the impact of higher steel and aluminum tariffs.
VW said in February that 54 percent of its total private label volume was sales SUVs – a big change for a company that for years in the United States mainly emphasized cars.
In addition to a seven-person Atlas, which came on the market last year, VW presented a brand new 2018 Tiguan SUV last year.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Arrangement by Steve Orlofsky