Car Industry

Volkswagen's US CEO says around $25,000 would be a smart price for a small pickup

VW America head Scott Keogh sees "opportunity" in a market full of $50,000 and $60,000 pickups.

Steven Pham/Roadshow

Volkswagen builds pickups like the Amarok and Saveiro for other countries, but sadly, it has no official plans to bring a pickup truck to the US. If you look at what the German automaker has been up to lately, however, it certainly seems like VW is very interested in entering the market.

At last year's New York Auto Show, VW showed off its definitely-not-for-production Atlas Tanoak concept -- basically its Atlas midsize SUV, but with a pickup bed out back.

This year, the automaker has brought its smaller Tarok pickup (based on the MQB platform that also underpins the Volkswagen Golf and Jetta), which looks a lot closer to production, but, unfortunately, is also just a concept.

Scott Keogh, Volkswagen Group of America's CEO, revealed some insights about how a small pickup might work in the US during a Wednesday media roundtable session I attended at the NY Auto Show.

"I think we can comment with an extremely, let's say, smart price point," Keogh said. "I don't want to, you know, start to give away price points, but I think you could put a vehicle like that in the marketplace in, let's say, the mid-20s with proper engine, proper everything."

Again, VW hasn't committed to a US truck, and Keogh cautions that the company's investigation into the idea is "all early days," but clearly it's putting a lot of thought into the idea. Further, its new truck and van partnership with Ford could help facilitate its developing such models more quickly and less expensively. Still, the thought of a capable, well-equipped small pickup for not a lot of money could resonate in a US market that once bought hundreds of thousands of compact pickups.

A production version of the Tarok trucklet would be sweet, especially if consumers got some of this concept's delicious interior cues.

Steven Pham/Roadshow

"I do see an opportunity where these trucks have all moved into the 50s and the 60s [pricing] and beyond," Keogh added, alluding to the escalating price of full-size pickups. "That is the price of an expensive luxury car, not a normal luxury car, and I think there is an opportunity because people do need these vehicles, and I think Volkswagen's always made cars for people who need vehicles. You know, they have families, they need safety, they need things, so you have to hit a good price point, and I think we can."

A small VW pickup could have another party trick: fuel economy. "Depending on what drivetrain we put in there, you could also get phenomenal fuel economy out of that thing," Keogh said. A fuel-sipping trucklet would certainly stand out amid a US pickup market loaded with full-size rigs that struggle to get combined miles per gallon ratings in the high teens.

Sure, there are efficient midsize trucks in the American market like the Chevy Colorado Duramax diesel at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined, but that starts at $37,675. If VW could pull off an affordable compact pickup that gets mid-20s combined fuel economy, but for around 10 grand less, that might just provide enough of a business case to build one.

VW may also have some small-truck competition in the pipeline, too. Ford recently confirmed that it's planning a sub-Ranger-sized pickup, but the jury's out on whether the mini truck will make it to America. In addition, Hyundai is planning on bringing its small Santa Cruz pickup truck to the US "as soon as possible."