For pickup-loving Chattanoogans, a truck built in Volkswagen's assembly plant in the Scenic City appears unlikely in the near future, according to the automaker.
Should a Volkswagen light truck eventually emerge for the U.S. market, a battery-powered electric one is seen as a starting point, Johan de Nysschen, VW of America's chief operating officer, told Motor Trend magazine at the Chicago Auto Show this month.
The company official said that a pickup for the American market "is not even on the discussion" for the next five years, according to Motor Trend.
"The door is not open for a conventional approach," de Nysschen added. "Electrification represents a new starting point for everyone."
Two years ago, Volkswagen unveiled a pickup concept based off the Atlas sports utility vehicle (SUV) called the Tanoak. A dual-cab, short-bed concept named after a tree species native to the U.S. Pacific coast, the Tanoak was potentially seen as a third vehicle in the growing Atlas model lineup.
"We're thinking about what may be possible some day in the future in this market," said Hinrich J. Woebcken, then-Volkswagen Group of America's chief executive, who showed off the truck to applause and whistles at the New York International Auto Show.
2019 U.S. TRUCK SALES
* Ford F-Series: 896,526
* Ram pickup: 633,694
* Chevrolet Silverado: 575,569
* Toyota Tacoma: 248,801
* GMC Sierra: 232,325
* Chevrolet Colorado: 121,703
* Toyota Tundra: 111,673
* Ford Ranger: 83,571
* Nissan Frontier: 72,369
* Jeep Gladiator: 40,038
* Honda Ridgeline: 33,334
* GMC Canyon: 32,826
* Nissan Titan: 31,514
Source: statista, goodcarbadcar
Last year at the same auto show, VW revealed another concept, the Tarok, to gauge market reaction for a compact entry-level pickup.
But now, VW appears headed in another direction at its focuses on introducing new SUVs and electric vehicles.
Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for auto researcher Edmunds, said that while the long-term future for vehicles may be battery electric, getting to that point over the next few years will be financially challenging for automakers.
SUV sales for VW, like other automakers, have soared. About 53% of sales for Volkswagen of America last year were for SUV models, she said.
The Tanoak with its car-based platform wasn't seen as a competitor to the body-on-frame Ford Series or the Chevrolet Silverado and their heavy duty towing capability. Rather, the Tanoak was more in line with the much slower selling Honda Ridgeline. VW officials apparently didn't believe the investment in a pickup would get the return.
For example, while the Ford Series pickups sold 890,000 units last year, only 33,000 Ridgelines left American dealerships, figures show. Also, sales figures show that Americans prefer trucks from the Detroit Three automakers rather than foreign carmakers.
Caldwell said pickup trucks are selling "very well" as a segment. But, she said, VW would have to move "relatively quickly" from a timing standpoint.
"If it had something soonish, that would be preferred," Caldwell said.
VW late last year began construction of an $800 million expansion at its Chattanooga production plant, which builds the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs and the Passat midsize sedan, to assemble an electric vehicle by 2022.
VW officials said that a battery-powered SUV will be first off the new production facility, and the Chattanooga facility already has been dubbed the German company's EV manufacturing hub for North America.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.