Volkswagen Doesn’t Want the Honda Ridgeline Problem

The VW Tanoak pickup truck isn’t happening.

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Volkswagen Doesn’t Want the Honda Ridgeline Problem © Volkswagen Doesn’t Want the Honda Ridgeline Problem

Volkswagen's Atlas Tanoak is one of those concept cars that feels like it's been shown off for eons now, but it looks like all of that teasing and rotating on auto show stands is finally coming to an end because VW now says the truck isn't going to production. From VWVortex, VW USA Product Marketing & Strategy Senior VP Hein Schafer told journalists at the Chicago Auto Show that "in terms of platform limitations, and I in terms of sheer volume capacity to be able to do something like that, it just doesn’t pencil. So that concept is still pretty much dead."

Schafer goes on to explain the decision by pointing to the poor sales performance of that other crossover-based (read: car-based) non-American pickup: the fantastic Honda Ridgeline.

"So, you’ve basically spent a hell of a big investment to, at best, deliver a Honda Ridgeline, which is sitting at what? Three, four percent of segment," the VW exec said. "And that’s the difficulty. If you don’t do the job right—I mean how do you take on an F-150 or a Toyota Tundra?"

And as much as we'd like a new VW pickup to play with, Schafer has a point here. It's no secret that American pickup truck buyers overwhelmingly prefer American pickup trucks, so any competitor that doesn't wear a Ford, Ram, or Chevy badge is always going to be fighting an uphill battle. 

In case you don't know, the Honda Ridgeline is actually assembled in Alabama, a fact Honda should consider stamping onto the side of every Ridgeline if it wants to sell more of them.

Volkswagen North America's recently appointed COO, Johan de Nysschen, echoed Schafer's sentiments, highlighting the struggles even Toyota's body-on-frame trucks have had in the pickup market. "You know, Toyota has been trying forever with competent vehicles. Nissan have been trying forever and the American manufacturers kind of have that tied up," de Nysschen remarked. "So if you try to do a me-too, I don’t think you’ll get anywhere even if it’s just as good or better."

For those out of the loop, the Tanoak was supposed to be an Atlas-based pickup powered by a 3.6-liter V6. While the Tanoak isn't likely materializing anytime soon, all hope isn't lost for VW's other potential truck, the Ford Ranger-based Tarok, with Schafer describing it as "more a lifestyle vehicle, and I would see it more kind of appealing to someone who’s potentially looking for a more rugged-looking SUV."

Beyond the Tarok, de Nysschen even touched upon the recent trend of electric trucks and the possibility of VW using the shakeup as an entry point. "Electrification is like a reset for everyone," said de Nysschen. "And it’s changed the definition of the product concept. And while brand loyalties no doubt will continue to play out in the future, that could represent an opportunity for us."

In the meantime, those looking for a Volkswagen pickup will just have to stick to Smyth-kit Beetles a little bit longer.

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