Does VW know what it’s doing? Will they ever get the pickup right? We covered this ongoing struggle before over the summer, and the results were not all that pleasing. Acting as if it has just come up with something totally revolutionary, VW’s new “Pickup Concept”, which premiered this fall in Hanover at a commercial vehicle show, is probably a few decades too late. Why is the usually uber-practical “car for the people” trying to reinvent the wheel? With foreign companies like Toyota, Nissan and Honda already successful with their tons of steel, and sometimes with way too much horsepower, what would possibly behoove VW to want to trot out a fully-designed truck now.
The answer may be that it’s about the actual markets where these new trucks will be. Brazil and Argentina, for example, are important customers for VW’s more outdoor vehicles and various mutations of Eurovans and Roatans –of course, with different localized names. China, another huge market for VW, doesn’t get into the trucks much; they prefer the Jetta (Bora), the Passat and the classier cousins, the Audi A4s and A6s. It’s still debatable whether the words “Volkswagen” and “pick up” together in a sentence will excite the typical Joe the Plumber here in the states, particularly when the truck here has traditionally latched itself on to long agricultural or even blue-collar traditions, particularly in those parts of the country where trucks are readily needed. This excludes you, New York and San Francisco.
While this new ad (in German) from VW reveals a sportier, more muscular VW truck, and quite an improvement in the looks department from its previous iterations, I wonder if VW is on to something with the market segment they are trying to play to. Or the general motif itself. Let’s channel “Baywatch”! Sure, the land that inexplicably worships David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff, has delivered quite an ad here based on the rotten 90s syndicated TV show because it wants to somehow recreate the fun of having two SoCal lifeguards haul ass, Baywatch-style, in an attempt to save a swimmer out on those Malibu beaches.
This just might work. Hit the consumer where his craving for nostalgia is most sensitive. Load it up just like Hobie and Cody, bro! Dude! Bring them in for some wicked cameos! David Chokachi! Bring on the Hoff! Don’t they need the work? In any case, for trying to ape the whole Baywatch look and feel, the production values of this German production are wunderbar. But I just don’t see all that many Americans looking past all the fluff and getting too excited about the truck. Yeah, it’s not bad looking, but it’s not as if we haven’t seen something like this before.
Oh yeah, the truck. This is what VW is brave enough to describe in its promotional materials about this concept truck:
The Pickup Concept follows a beach patrol theme with its blue LED lights fitted on the roof of the vehicle and you can barely fail to see the SAR (search and rescue) stickers plastered on the side of its body. It boasts a five-foot cargo area along with a two-piece tailgate that cleverly stores essential tools for the day to day operations of a beach patrol vehicle. It features a double-cab layout with a center console that has a multifunction touchscreen that controls the radio-navigation system. Volkswagen will begin production of the 1 ton truck in the fall of 2009 at its plant in Pachero, Argentina with sales to begin soon after in the models’ key markets: South America, South Africa, Australia and Europe.
Wait a minute. I don’t see “North America” as one of the markets for this truck. Just goes to show that it will take a lot more than a snazzy ad campaign, but then again we aren’t the target audience anyways. We are the country of Jettas and Passats, even New Beetles (and even New New Beetles, which are slated for an overhaul in 2011). With the new Roatans, despite a weak ad campaign with a hectoring Brooke Shields, and the mini-Touareg Tiguans, I’d say that VW isn’t necessarily impressing the American public with anything terribly exciting at the moment. In fact, at the recent LA Auto Show, the crowds at the VW stand were not standing around these vehicles much. A new 2009 Touareg TDI and Jetta TDI were the stars, with the latter winning “Green Car of the Year”. Next door at the Audi display, the new Q5 didn’t attract many visitors (maybe it looked a lot like the Infiniti FX-35) but the real challenge was waiting in lines to sit inside the sleek S5.
OK, so this Pickup Concept or “Robust”, or whatever they decide to call it in any of the respective countries, looks a little fetching. And the ad campaign may be a little corny. If the Germans decide they want to add any little pizzazz or beach-blond hype to this heavy contraption, who are we to interfere?