New Atlas SUV could fast-track Volkswagen’s return to pickup segment

2018 Volkswagen Atlas R-Line
Volkswagen is still looking for a way to return to the lucrative pickup truck segment in the United States after a decadeslong hiatus. The all-new Atlas SUV (pictured) gives the brand the opportunity to build a unibody model aimed right at the award-winning Honda Ridgeline.

Matthias Erb, Volkswagen of North America’s chief engineering officer, told website CarBuzz that the company is exploring the possibility of turning the Atlas into a truck for our market. If launched, the yet-unnamed model would be to the Atlas what the Ridgeline is to the Pilot, meaning the two would share the same stretched version of Volkswagen’s highly modular MQB platform and the same four- and six-cylinder engines. Transforming the Atlas into a truck would be a more cost-effective solution than designing one from scratch.

Erb explained Volkswagen hasn’t completely ruled out selling a more rugged, body-on-frame pickup in the U.S. However, the Wolfsburg-based company wouldn’t build a full-size model designed to fight in the same segment as the Chevrolet Silverado, the Ram 1500, and the Ford F-150. “Body-on-frame trucks are a protected market,” he pointed out.

Another solution for Volkswagen is to engineer the next generation of the Amarok with U.S. regulations in mind, but that looks unlikely to happen. Erb confirmed the current model won’t be sold on our shores — which is hardly a surprise given its age — and he stressed that there are no plans to sell its replacement here, either.

Volkswagen isn’t firmly committed to selling a truck in the U.S.; it’s merely keeping all options on the table. When a final decision will be made hasn’t been revealed yet. If the Atlas does spawn a truck, it will have to fend off competition from the aforementioned Ridgeline and the upcoming production version of the Hyundai Santa Cruz concept.

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