This story was updated March 28, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. with more information.
A new Volkswagen pickup truck, called "the most American VW ever" by the German automaker on Wednesday, could one day hit U.S. roads with a "Made in Chattanooga" stamp.
The Atlas Tanoak, a dual-cab, short-bed concept named after a tree species native to the U.S. Pacific coast, could become the third vehicle in the growing Atlas model lineup, according to VW.
› What: Dual-cab, short-bed pickup truck
› Size: 214.1 inches long, 79.9 inches wide and 72.6 inches tall
› Engine: 276-horsepower V6 gasoline-powered engine with all-wheel-drive system and eight-speed automatic transmission
› Performance: 0 to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds
› Wheels: 20-inch wheels with 275/55 tires
› Price: Not announced
Source: Volkswagen Group of America
"We're thinking about what may be possible some day in the future in this market," said Hinrich J. Woebcken, Volkswagen Group of America's chief executive, who showed off the truck to applause and whistles at the New York International Auto Show.
Volkswagen design head Klaus Bischoff said the five-seat Tanoak is "a deep dive into the heart of the American dream."
"It stands for what the land of opportunity is all about — go anywhere, do anything," he said, adding that the truck fulfills all the requirements of an American pickup along with providing German precision.
The Tanoak concept is 214.1 inches long, which is 15.8 inches longer than the Chattanooga-made, three-row Atlas SUV that's now the biggest vehicle VW has made in America. VW says the truck is "a large midsize pickup by U.S. standards."
The pickup uses a 276-horsepower V6 gasoline-powered engine with an all-wheel-drive system and eight-speed automatic transmission, the company said.
The body of the concept vehicle is nearly two inches taller than the Atlas, and it has ground clearance of almost 10 inches.
The cargo bed is 64.1 inches long and 57.1 inches wide, allowing for easy transport of cargo such as bikes or surfboards with the tailgate in place, according to VW.
But Ivan Drury, senior industry analyst with Edmunds, said the business case for eventual production of the pickup truck is "very difficult."
"It's a hard sell," he said. "Truck buyers are so loyal."
Drury said the Tanoak concept has a unibody construction, such as in the lower-selling Honda Ridgeline pickup. A body-on-frame design, such as in the segment leader Toyota Tacoma, allows for greater towing and off-roading ability.
"It's a lifestyle. It's recreational," he said, adding those factors are probably more in line with actual day-to-day truck use by many owners.
VW officials will gauge the reception of the truck concept, Drury said.
"There could be a huge push," he said. "Maybe they could do it cheap enough. When you build off of a platform with another vehicle it has shared cost."
On Wednesday at the show, as Sly and the Family Stone's "Family Affair" played in the background, VW showed an image of the truck concept alongside the seven- and five-seat Atlas SUVs.
Both of those SUVs will be produced on the company's flexible modular transverse matrix, or MQB, architecture at the Chattanooga plant.
Just Tuesday, VW unfurled the Atlas Cross Sport, which will have two rows of seats rather than the three in the seven-passenger SUV. The Cross Sport is slated for production in Chattanooga in late 2019 as VW makes a $340 million investment in the local assembly plant. VW started production of the bigger Atlas about a year ago.
Although the Atlas Tanoak is based on the SUV, the pickup is completely redesigned, according to the automaker.
For example, designers worked the Atlas logo into the pickup's front end and integrated an animated lighting display. When the Atlas Tanoak is opened, the white VW logo gradually brightens. From there, the white light runs over the two crossbars of the grille and into the headlight surrounds.
Woebcken said the Atlas vehicles are "aimed at the heart" of the U.S. market.
"What could be more American than a pickup truck?" he asked.
The VW official quipped that perhaps all that was missing was a cowboy hat, but his team refused to let him wear one.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.