Volkswagen’s US chief says growing demand for electric pickup trucks gives it a great opportunity to enter that market, though he stopped short of confirming an EV ute for the brand.
“I think it’s the chance of a lifetime in this segment because electrification gives you a reset moment. It gives you a chance to bring some, let’s say, alternatives and some new ideas into this great segment,” Volkswagen Group of America CEO Scott Keogh told Business Insider.
“It’s something we’re actively looking at, but nothing to actually report now.”
Keogh is responsible for the Volkswagen Group’s operations across the US, Canada and Mexico.
It’s unclear just how large an electric Volkswagen pickup would be, with many of the electric pickups revealed thus far being full-sized or close to.
The full-sized pickup truck market in the US has been notoriously hard for foreign brands to make headway in.
Toyota has been building a full-sized pickup truck for over 20 years, but its Tundra is still a distant fifth in sales behind rivals from Ford, Ram, Chevrolet and GMC, if comfortably ahead of the Nissan Titan.
That’s in contrast with the mid-sized pickup segment, where the Toyota Tacoma dominates.
But the entrenched brand loyalty to the American Big 3 may not apply in the nascent electric pickup market, where Keogh says everyone faces the same challenges in scaling up production.
That therefore helps level the playing field and makes it easier for Volkswagen to enter with an electric pickup, according to Keogh, as opposed to trying to introduce a petrol-powered Ford F-Series rival.
“I think a buyer would historically say, ‘I buy F-150, I buy Ram, I buy Silverado.’ Now they might be saying, ‘I’m going to buy an electric one,’” he said.
“That reset moment gives a competitive chance to come in, whether it’s Rivian or whether it’s us.”
The Volkswagen brand is aiming for EVs to account for 55 per cent of its US sales by 2030. It currently sells the ID.4, and will soon offer the ID. Buzz people mover.
Volkswagen is getting ready to introduce a second-generation Amarok based on the redesigned Ford Ranger, and Ford has said the platform supports electrification, with a plug-in hybrid Ranger confirmed for production.
The Amarok has never been sold in North America, though Volkswagen sells the compact, car-based Saveiro ute in Mexico.
Smaller pickups have been enjoying a resurgence in the US, with Ford and GM having returned to the mid-sized pickup segment a few years ago after several years without an entrant there.
Subsequently, Ford has introduced the hot-selling Maverick, related to the Escape and Bronco Sport crossovers, which slots under the Ranger and rivals the Hyundai Santa Cruz.
It’s unclear whether Volkswagen would develop an electric version of its Amarok – considered a mid-sized pickup by US standards – or create a vehicle on a dedicated EV architecture, like the MEB platform underpinning everything from the Volkswagen ID.3 hatchback to the ID. Buzz.
With the exception of a couple of Chinese trucks like the Nissan Navara-based Dongfeng Rich 6 EV and the LDV eT60, most electric pickups have been on the larger end of the spectrum.
The Rivian R1T, for example, measures 5514mm long and 2078mm wide, slotting it between combustion-engine models like the Toyota HiLux (5325mm/1855mm) and the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (5885mm/2063mm).
Even larger models include the Ford F-150 Lightning and Chevrolet Silverado EV, as well as the more off-road-oriented GMC Hummer EV.
The Rivian R1T and GMC Hummer EV have only recently gone on sale, while the Ford F-150 Lightning enters production this month and the Chevrolet Silverado EV will be launched next year. None of these vehicles have been confirmed for Australia as of yet.