Two long years ago, I sat in the front seat of the Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak pickup truck concept at the New York Auto Show with Justin Westbrook and argued about the truck’s usefulness and necessity. It was really all for naught, as Volkswagen, unsurprisingly, almost certainly won’t build it.
As a refresher, the Tanoak was a conceptual, mid-sized truck based on the Volkswagen Atlas crossover. It was powered by VW’s 3.6-liter V6, good for 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. For all intents and purposes, a neat truck. If you were into that sort of thing, of course.
Speaking to Volkswagen’s Vice President of Product Marketing and Strategy, Hein Schafer, Autoblog recently reported that the chances of the automaker actually bringing the Tanoak to production “are slim to none.”
That’s a quote from Autoblog, not from Schafer, to be clear. Autoblog didn’t actually quote the guy directly in its article, but VWVortex did:
“I think, just in terms of platform limitations, and I think in terms of sheer volume capacity to be able to do something like that, it just doesn’t pencil,” Schafer told journalists at the Chicago Auto Show. “So that concept is still pretty much dead.”
The Tanoak, for those who don’t remember, was an Atlas-based pickup that was roughly the size of the Honda Ridgeline—which was one of the main knocks against it.
“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,” said Schafer. “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?”
As with all business decisions, it comes down to time and money. It takes a huge amount of cash to turn the Atlas into a production pickup, and even then, Schafer doesn’t believe it’d be as “capable” as body-on-frame trucks.
The example he gave was the Honda Ridgeline. It’s a nice truck that sold 33,334 units last year. But that’s compared to the 384,168 CR-Vs, 135,008 Pilots and 99,113 Odysseys also sold last year, according to Honda’s own data. The sales figures just don’t justify the Tanoak’s existence.
Also, VW is going all-out on the EV-attack front. With the development of its new, MEB platform, the automaker has big plans to launch an entire family of EVs in the coming years. There really doesn’t seem to be any room—or budget—for a unibody, mid-size, gasoline-powered truck that won’t sell well.
Now, a mid-size or compact electric truck? Hmmm.