First Volkswagen’s North American head said he wanted an electric pickup truck, then a senior executive said an electric Amarok was possible.
Now, Reuters reports Volkswagen is considering an expansion of its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant to build an electric pickup truck as well as the new ID. Buzz electric people mover.
Opened in 2011, the Chattanooga plant currently produces the Atlas SUV range and will start production of the ID.4 electric SUV in the northern Autumn.
Manager Magazin also reports Volkswagen is planning on building a second US plant, potentially adjacent to the Chattanooga factory, and is considering construction of a battery cell plant.
Should Volkswagen build a second factory, it would reportedly increase its annual production capacity in the US to up to 600,000 vehicles.
It’s unclear if this proposed electric pickup would be the proposed electric Amarok derivative, or if it’d be a more “lifestyle”-oriented vehicle on the dedicated electric MEB architecture.
Volkswagen has previously teased a lifestyle ute – à la the unibody Honda Ridgeline – with the 2018 Atlas Tanoak concept (above), based on the large, petrol-powered Atlas crossover on the MQB architecture.
It also recently released a design draft for a ute version of the ID. Buzz.
The company has spoken in more explicit terms about an electric version of the upcoming second-generation Amarok, which shares its underpinnings with the new Ford Ranger.
“We’re looking at a pure-electric version [of the Amarok],” Lars Krause, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle board member responsible for marketing, told Autocar.
“It’s still early, but it’s something we’re considering within the lifecycle.”
The Amarok’s body-on-frame architecture can accommodate an electric drivetrain and battery pack, according to Mr Krause.
“We think it’s possible. Obviously, we’d need to modify certain elements. But yes, we’re seriously considering an electric variant,” said Mr Krause.
Autocar reports the Amarok EV could launch by 2025.
Earlier this month, Volkswagen Group of America CEO Scott Keogh told Business Insider said the company was “actively looking at” introducing an electric pickup.
“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,” said Mr Keogh.
Keogh believes the entrenched brand loyalty of full-sized pickup buyers to the likes of Chevrolet, Ford, GMC and Ram may not apply in the nascent electric pickup market.
“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.”
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.
These include the aforementioned F-150 Lightning, as well as the Rivian R1T, GMC Hummer EV and upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV and Ram 1500 BEV.
An electric pickup would be part of a broader plan to increase the brand’s market share in North America.
The Volkswagen Group is planning to invest at least US$7.1 billion (A$9.9b) over the next five years in North America, and says it’ll add 25 new electric vehicles there by 2030.
It wants EVs to account for 50 per cent of its North American sales by 2030.
Volkswagen said in March it was shifting more production to China and the US as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; automotive supply chains have been greatly affected, particularly as numerous wiring harness suppliers are based in Ukraine.
The Volkswagen brand’s sales have ticked upwards of late, with its 2021 tally representing its best result in the US market since 2013.
The brand also returned to profitability in North America in 2021 after not having turned a profit since 2012.
Volkswagen said in March that sales and revenue in both North and South America were up significantly in 2021, and that it had a strong plan for the future to further improve the brand’s competitiveness in those markets in the coming years.
The ID. Buzz will be an image leader for the brand, and will initially be exported to the US from Germany before entering production in either the US or Mexico.
A long-wheelbase, three-row version is being developed with the US market front of mind. It hasn’t sold a three-row people mover since the 2009-13 Routan, a restyled Chrysler Town & Country (Voyager).
As for utes, it hasn’t sold one in the US since the first-generation Golf-based Rabbit Pickup from 1978 to 1984.
South of the border, Volkswagen Mexico sells its spiritual successor, the Saveiro.