Volkswagen Cancels Its Pickup Planned For Europe and North America
By Andy Bannister
In a further sign of the effects of the current economic slowdown, the Volkswagen pick-up truck due to debut in 2010 in Europe and North America has reportedly been cancelled from the company’s future product plan, although a simplified version is still due to be produced for South America.
Codenamed “Robust” and possibly to have been called Namib (after the south west African desert) the model will not now be built in Germany by the company’s truck division, VW Nutzfahrzeuge. It seems we will never know if the premium model would have looked anything like this Touareg-based design study (pictured).
Lack of a strong track record for this type of vehicle from VW, and the current sky-high oil prices, are being blamed for the decision.
The model would have been an unusually-sized vehicle in Europe, where there has not traditionally been a strong market for larger pick-up trucks, and Japanese manufacturers like Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Isuzu dominate overall sales. In the US and Canada it would have challenged the Ford F-150 and others of its ilk – a decidedly new and risky market for the German company.
A much simpler, cheap-to-build and rugged version of the model is still likely to be made at VW’s Pacheco plant in Argentina for emerging markets around the world, at a planned production of 90,000 units per annum.
Volkswagen as a brand is particularly strong in South America. VW’s car sales in Brazil this year are expected to exceed the German home market and be second only to China in global terms.
In Europe, VW seems doomed to fail in the ulitity pick-up market, where it has had a number of false starts in recent years.
Yugoslavia for a time provided a Golf mk1-based pick-up, known as the Caddy, which was derived from the US-made VW Rabbit Pick-up, and was a reasonable success. Unfortunately it was scuppered by the civil war which marooned its Sarajevo factory in the midst of horrific ethnic strife.
A later attempt to market a second-generation Caddy Pick-up also turned east, to VW’s Czech Skoda subsidiary, which provided a rebadged version of its cute little Felicia Pick-up, with 1300cc petrol and 1900cc diesel versions. This model, which owed nothing to any other VW, was confusingly sold alongside a completely unrelated Caddy van derived from the Spanish Seat Inca, at a time when Volkswagen had yet to stamp clear brand images on its new divisions.
A possibly even-more-bizarre offering from the Germans, in a larger class, was the little-known Volkswagen Taro, launched in Europe in 1989 and half-heartedly sold across the continent until 1996. This was a trusty Toyota Hilux, rebadged with a VW grille under a German-Japanese technology-sharing agreement, and made in two-wheel-drive version at the company’s factory in Hannover. A later-entry 4X4 model was imported direct from Japan.
VW failed to make a significant impact with the Taro, despite the lack of local competition, underlining the fact European manufacturers have no real tradition in pick-ups, as well as the lack of consumer demand. Among domestic manufacturers only Ford Europe currently persists with a model in this sector, the Ranger (a Mazda-derived model from Thailand unrelated to the US model).
For some years GM’s European offshoot, Opel. imported an Isuzu, the KB-derived Campo (known as the Vauxhall Brava in the UK), but eventually abandoned this model and other Isuzu designs in favour of a van-centred tie-up with Renault of France.
South America currently supplies VW’s only successful pick-up, the small Saveiro, a reasonably-attractive version of the locally-designed and long-running Gol family from Brazil. This is, however, not widely exported.
The cancellation of the 2010 global Volkswagen design means the intriguing question of whether European and North Americans buyers would have been won-over by a large pick-up designed and made in Germany will not be put to the test. What do you think?
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