No, You Would Not Buy the Volkswagen Amarok Either

1 (Copy)I did a figurative spit take when I saw that Hyundai had gone totally bonkers at the NAIAS and launched a Ute concept. Of course, I knew the chances of such a vehicle entering production are about the same as the chances of Rolex announcing that they’ll make an economy line of digital watches. Still it’s a proverbial bone thrown to the same people I was referring to in my previous article on Brazilian Utes.
In the comments Hoon craigsu mentioned the Volkswagen Amarok. On paper this could be the small pickup truck that America wants.
On paper.

The Volkswagen Group is the ninth largest company on planet Earth and sold an amazing total of 5.07 million vehicles in the first six months of last year. The only company that did better was Toyota with 5.11 million vehicles in the same time. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at the U.S sales numbers.
Over the last year, only 366,970 Vee-Dubs left the showroom floor. Toyota? 2,004,373. To put that in perspective, for every car that Volkswagen sold in America, Toyota sold five thousand four hundred and sixty one. Pummeling doesn’t even come close to describing it.
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Part of the trouble is that, while their lineup in the rest of the world is extremely competitive with offerings such as the Polo GTI, everything on the American Lineup that isn’t a Golf with either “GTI” or “R” in it somewhere seems a bit…lacking. The Jetta went from being a premium Golf with a trunk to becoming this cheap decontented model to chase after the Corolla buyers that don’t bother checking other manufacturer’s offerings and just want to replace an old Corolla with a slightly newer Corolla. The Passat is a model designed specifically for the North American market which is…worse. The Touareg is just simply mediocre. There’s the Beetle, but the new new Beetle looked like they asked a guy in accounting to design them, so they’re inoffensive enough to not cause a negative reaction from anyone and therefore, not able to cause a positive reaction either.
Another problem is reliability. I’m not quite sure what happens but for some reason modern Volkswagens seem to be eager to disintegrate on American soil, regardless of model or where they are produced. And before the guy with the 250,000 mile Mk.III Jetta comes along and tells me how he has only had to replace every part on the engine once to keep it on the road (which is admittedly better than what you have to do to keep a First-gen Land Rover Freelander on the road) consider the following: Although Volkswagen has decided to move from a premium image and begun chasing the cheap-appliance crowd on the quest for more sales numbers, that attitude has yet to be reflected on servicing costs.
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But the biggest hurdle Volkswagen would’d have to overcome in the market is the market itself. Macho sells in the truck market. So how do you position a small truck from the same people that make the Beetle Cabriolet and that can only be had with a puny two liter engine? Speaking of which, the only gas engine available is the same 2.0 TSI that you can find on other VW products. Here producing 158 HP, or about the same as the 2.7-liter engine you find on the Toyota Tacoma, but the Tacoma’s engine is better because it’s bigger. Or so it goes in marketing-land. Diesel? Of course, you can have them in single and twin-turbo guise with 138 or 177HP respectively. That actually seems worth paying for, which is a good thing, because you will pay a lot.
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The base, single cab Amarok costs the equivalent of $24,938 in its native Germany. Only a thousand dollars less than the Base Ford F150 XL. Go a little crazy with the options and you can easily find yourself standing on the wrong side of $35,000. So with the lack of bigger engines, the price tag and the destructowagen force field that surrounds America, it’d be doomed to be a niche vehicle at best.
Certainly not what VW needs right now.
[Image Sources: Media/Ford Media/]

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  1. MattC Avatar

    I really would want to have an Amarok because it seems (on paper) that it is in a perfect slot for buyers of smaller/more efficient truck. But, the big reason I would stay away is the dreaded reliability issue (whether real of perceived). I have enough friends/neighbors/associates that have complained and/or completely taken a bath on trade -ins due to the horror stories about their unreliable VWs. It has steered me away from that brand altogether (despite their stellar road manners).
    On the Toyota sales, say what you (and I) would say about Toyota being boing, but they are reliable and Toyota knows what their core buyer wants. Toyota replaces perfectly reliable and unassuming vehicles models with newer models with slightly newer changes but with very similar (re: reliable) powertrains.

  2. Mister Sterling Avatar
    Mister Sterling

    I think the latest Colorado/Canyon has reminded Americans that we used to have awesome compact trucks (Mazda B series, anyone?). I'm still puzzled how CAFE laws killed a healthy segment that should thrive in an era of small displacement turbos. So I think automakers are testing the waters. Generation X would be the crowd to buy these vehicles. They remember the Brat. They remember how every Japanese maker had a compact truck, with just the Frontier and Tundra barely qualifying as "compact." So there is a market for this. But a maker has to find the right body type and engine mix to make it work. The best bet would be a vehicle that could also be sold in Southeast Asia and Down Under.

    1. Drzhivago138 Avatar

      I think you meant to say "Frontier and Tacoma". FWIW, both of those have been better classified as mid-size since 2005.

  3. Batshitbox Avatar

    "Volkswagen has decided to move from a premium image and begun chasing the cheap-appliance crowd"
    No one my age thinks of VW as a premium brand here in the States, and I'd bet not many folks younger than me (born after Black Sabbath's first album, say) grew up thinking of it as a premium brand. We think, here, if it's German it's expensive to maintain. The old Beetles were long in the tooth by the '80s and required "a VW guy" to understand them, and the Rabbits and Sciroccos were just college kid cars, handed down from commuter parents.
    Toyota did well to keep nameplates around interminably, as did the Big Three. VW kept putting out Rabbits, Jettas, Golfs, Passats, Sciroccos, Corrados and one gimmick after another. Nobody ever saw them on the road ten or twelve years later. Partly because they fell apart and partly because the name plate was decommissioned. Nobody has any trouble finding a 15 year old Corrolla or Camry.
    But maybe VW could take a swipe at the small truck market. There are a lot of Chevy S-10 fans out there who think the Colorado is too big.

  4. mseoul Avatar

    Good commentary on VW's new views and actions in the North Am market. When VW officially started lumping US and China market models together for finish materials and other content, as a former multi-multi VW owner, I was highly disappointed. I guess they have finally given in with IRS on the Passat. I also wonder about spring rates on non-special model Golfs. Does VW make a softer US spring rate for standard Golfs made in Mexico? In other markets VW uses Skoda or sometimes SEAT to differentiate lower content models but for the US it seems VW does not mind degrading its halo non-Audi brand.

  5. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Math challenged much?

    1. ptschett Avatar

      In his defense, in some systems of notation, "5.461" is five thousand, four hundred and sixty one. (Or, maybe the calculation was on a slide rule.)

  6. nanoop Avatar

    With speed limits by weight and taxes linear to displacement, the Amarok is a large car here. Add the gas prices (ca.10+ USD/gal) , and a 2L engine seems sound..
    Not a car for Northern America, no.
    I really don't get the frayed electrics thing you folks have with VW – I don't think they are significantly off average here (neither are modern French cars, btw.) Maybe a contrast thing?

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Well, the sensor/electric issues on Touran and Co are what makes them very cheap used cars, compared to the oil-sipping alternative of the house of Toyota, say. But what's the value of a cheap buy-in with unexpected breaks at the shop and the expense that follows?
      When it comes to reliability, I've never really understood how people keep buying the crappy stuff. It blows my mind that both GM and VW – troubled companies, in my mind – are two of the top three successful car companies globally. They might offer a good product for the first buyer surfing on warranty, but is that really enough?

    2. Krautwursten Avatar

      I don't think petrol is $10/USgal anywhere in Europe. Premium used to be $7.50 here in Germany, but thanks to the barrel price collapse it's now closer to $5. But yeah, the taxes are what get us, plus we have a good bit less space than the Americans, so the Amarok really makes perfect sense as a pickup truck in Europe. Just not in the US.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        I paid 6.85 USD/USgal this morning, that is 13.75 NOK/litre. But…1 USD is now worth 7.59 NOK, it used to be an almost even 6 for a long time. Oil prices have pushing the retail price at the pump down from 16 to sometimes around 13 kroner, which is a rather big drop around here (Pretty jumpy prices lately). So 10 USD/USgal is not that far off in our recent past.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          My project car wants 98 octane (different definition than US gas, don't worry), I paid 16.93 NOK last summer, my all-time high.
          The NOK was about 0.16 USD then, so that means (a gal was about 3.7L?)…. Herr krautwursten is not too wrong neither, as 95oct usually is about one NOK cheaper. I actually exaggerated by 10%, and will start my own high octane fuel bank right now…

  7. Devin Avatar

    Well if you're talking about me specifically if I'm buying a truck I would consider an Amarok if VW actually had rural dealers. But it really doesn't, so I'll concede the point.

  8. Closed247 Avatar

    "Over the last year, only 366,970 Vee-Dubs left the showroom floor. Toyota? 2,004,373. To put that in perspective, for every car that Volkswagen sold in America, Toyota sold five thousand four hundred and sixty one."
    Erm, what? You might want to calculate that again and take into account what "," and "." mean when placed between numbers.
    Also, comparing the price of an Amarok in Germany to that of an F150 in the USA is completely pointless. A base Golf GTI costs about $33,000 in Germany, but less than $25,000 (plus tax) in the USA. If you, realistically, expect roughly the same discount for the Amarok, you get a base price of about $18,000.

    1. Manic_King Avatar

      Based on there are 30 or so new F150 available in Germany, price starts from €32k (VAT excl.) = $38k plus VAT (19%) and that is then XL reg. cab 4×2. Want more equipment? €39k
      I'm not sure who would buy these, too big, too thirsty. There's small market of wannabe Marlboro men, but that's it.
      But yeah, making price comparisons between countries without mistakes should be possible nowadays…..

  9. humblejanitor Avatar

    Wouldn't it make more sense for VW to build a full-size pickup in the US?

    1. Preludacris Avatar

      Would YOU buy a VW full-size pickup?

      1. cap'n fast Avatar
        cap'n fast

        even if that truck was designed by, say, Porsche and based on the SUV chassis with awd and a V-8?

  10. 7FIAT's Later Avatar
    7FIAT's Later

    Sorry, but the Amarok just does not look like something I would be throwing a load of firewood into the back of or really doing much truck related activities like hauling my quad or getting a load of dirt dumped in it. Just too pretty….LOL

  11. craigsu Avatar

    Well, given that I seem to have sparked this post to begin with, I suppose I should weigh in. "On paper" seems to be the most apropos phrase because as much as I would want one it won't happen anytime soon. VW North America's top brass have stated in the recent past that the Amarok won't even be considered for the USA market until the infamous Chicken Tax is repealed. For those who need a primer on this now 52-year-old debacle the Wikis of Pedia have more info: Believe me, it makes for enlightening reading if you're not familiar with it.
    I've been looking at the offerings in the used market and have narrowed my choices down to either the Ford Explorer Sport Trac or the Nissan Frontier. The GM Colorado/Canyon doesn't interest me. Despite the Ford Ranger being very popular I have a history with that vehicle that steers me away from it (nothing mechanical, per se, mainly emotional baggage; silly, I know). I might consider an older Tacoma PreRunner if the right one came along but they tend to have higher resale values than the Sport Trac or the Frontier. Heck, because of their resale values I'd even consider a Suzuki Equator (rebadged Frontier) or a Mitsubishi Raider (rebadged Dodge Dakota) since there are some within 100 miles of me and selling for a few thousand less than their equivalent badge mates.
    Something light-duty, no more than 6 cylinders, 4 doors Crew or Extended cab, RWD/4WD. Is that too much to ask for?

    1. MattC Avatar

      Funny you posted this. I just sold my old GMC Sonoma to my nephew and am in the market for another small truck. I am also looking at the same vehicles with an emphasis on either a Frontier of Sport Trac. I might also look at a Ranger (I had a base 1997 the I loved and regretted selling it). Another interesting vehicle is either a Toyota T100 or first Gen Tundra. My neighbor has a first gen Tundra and I really liked the size. Slightly bigger than a compact but absolutely dwarfed by today's full size trucks. The Raider (re:Dakota in drag) is also a steal in the used market

  12. cap'n fast Avatar
    cap'n fast

    agreed. that is the reality of it. cut the rear half off of a passat and weld on a box and I still think its too delicate to dump a load of landscape into it, let alone a sliced up jetta. both of which I have had in hand.
    both have been reliable enough, but then I don't slog as mercilessly as others apparently do to cause their internal self destruct subsystems to activate. any machine operated beyond it's design limits will fail quite sooner than later.

  13. hexor Avatar

    You have no idea what you’re talking about! LoL…VW Amarok twin turbo diesel is already getting over 30+mpgs combine city & highway… I’ve been a chevy truck guy my whole life! If the VW Amarok was available I’d trade my 10mpg 6.0 Silverado in for it right now today! My wife has a very heavy foot and drives the VW TDI Passat that gets 40+mpg…best car she has ever owned! American auto industry doesn’t want VW Amarok truck here lets be honest…It’s currently better than any mid size truck made here…

  14. Kyo Avatar

    Well. My cousin 3years old Amarok have its engine Cylinder seals changed and new pistons plus some other things. I told him : “Man, your Amarok revs up to 6,000RPM while my Isuzu Dmax revs to 4,000RPM and both get to the same speed. Why? Because the Isuzu has 50% larger Cylinders. So, higher Revs on his Amarok means higher stress and thats BAD on a Diesel. He learned his lesson. Told him that next time get an Isuzu Dmax or a Hilux.

  15. boxdin Avatar

    Manufacturers don’t realize size matters! With my swb Dakota in the garage I still have room for a motorcycle in front of it. The F150, no room. Same w Amarok, and look at the relative success of the Honda Ridgeline.