Dual-cabs are big business in ute-mad Australia, but when it comes to SUVs and passenger cars, medium-sized pick-ups like the Volkswagen Amarok are small beans on a global scale.
To put it into perspective, VW sells more Golfs around the world in a month than it sells Amaroks in a year.
Now, Volkswagen is deep in talks with Ford about a potential partnership to use the US company’s next-generation Ranger ute as a basis for its next generation Amarok.
Volkswagen AG’s chief executive officer Herbert Diess told US website Automotive News that while nothing has been signed as yet, talks are ongoing.
“Most of the talks have been centered around our light-duty vehicles, our small commercial vehicles business in Europe, where we found huge synergies,” said Mr Diess. “We are both relatively small in size against our peers, so what we're talking about is sharing a few platforms and manufacturing sites there, which makes sense.”
Though vans like the Ford Transit and Volkswagen Crafter were the main focus of the conversation, Mr Diess also indicated that a pick-up program makes sense.
"If the Ford relationship works out well, we would have an Amarok successor, which would be then appropriate for sales worldwide,” he said.
The current Australian-developed Ranger – codenamed PX2 – has just entered the US market as a compact pick-up, and has at least four or five years left before it’s due for an update, while there appear to be no plans in place currently to replace the almost eight-year-old Amarok on VW’s side.
This is ideal timing for both parties; should an agreement be inked, it will allow sufficient time to plan and validate both Ford and VW powertrains on a shared chassis.
As well, it should help to bring the cost of the Amarok down to more competitive levels, especially if manufacturing is moved from Europe to free trade agreement-friendly Thailand, where the Ranger is built.
Platform sharing is not new in the world of utes. In recent times, Isuzu and Holden shared the Colorado ute until 2015, when Isuzu took it back and named it the D-Max. Holden’s current Colorado is still based on heavily made-over underpinnings.
Nissan’s D40 Navara chassis has also been shared with both Mercedes-Benz for the X-Class and with Renault for the (supposedly) forthcoming Alaskan; and now that Mitsubishi is part of the Nissan/Renault alliance, expect to see the next Triton go in the same way.
About the only brand that doesn’t share its platform, in fact, is Toyota, which prefers to keep its Hilux all to itself.