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by James Ward

We’ve highlighted it before: Unlike its major competition, the Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux, Nissan Navara, Holden Colorado, Mazda BT-50 and Mitsubishi Triton, the freshly updated 2017 Volkswagen Amarok V6 doesn’t have rear passenger airbags.

We consider the omission a significant oversight, as this isn’t new technology and we’ve been told that engineering them into the current-generation car is feasible.

But… do buyers really care?

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The 4×4 pickup segment is seeing 10 percent year-on-year growth, and Amarok sales are showing positive growth in 2016, as they have every single year since 2011 when the VW ute was introduced.

Volkswagen claims the announcement of the V6 model yielded over 7300 enquiry leads, which is close to the total volume of 4×4 Amarok sales for the total 2015 calendar year. And at no point has VW suggested that rear or curtain airbags will be included.

At the Australian launch of the 2017 Volkswagen Amarok V6, CarAdvice spoke with Volkswagen Australia communications manager, Paul Pottinger, who said: “people aren’t buying this car because of the airbags, buyers care about cylinders under the bonnet.”

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It’s a valid point.

Even without the curtain airbags, the Amarok scored five out of five stars in ANCAP crash tests. The specific side-impact test (on front occupants) also received a perfect score, and in fact the only areas where the Amarok scored poorly are in pedestrian safety. So, ah, don’t get hit by one.

Every other pickup in the class of the Amarok offers this safety equipment, and despite the Volkswagen sitting in eighth place on the sales charts, we can’t really draw correlation between this and the lack of rear ‘bags.

If what Pottinger says is correct, then the Amarok’s jump to the head of the class in the power stakes should see even more sales growth of the Argentinian-built ute.

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The V6 model sees the Amarok receive a variant of the 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 found in the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, which offers 180kW and 580Nm in its most potent ‘overboost’ mode.

This places the Amarok’s normal 165kW output some 12 per cent higher than the 147kW output of the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50 and Holden Colorado. The bigger question now is, will any of the other brands counter with more powerful pick-ups in their line-ups?

We’d love to see an LSA Colorado or even a V8 twin-turbo diesel HiLux, but there’s nothing of the sort on the foreseeable horizon.

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What is more likely, is another update to the Amarok before a new, second-generation pick-up arrives around 2020, with the airbags in place.

Also at the Australian launch of the V6 Amarok, CarAdvice spoke with Dr Jan Michel, International Sales Director of Volkswagen Commercial, who indicated the airbag ‘issue’ is something VW is cognisant of.

“We are working on it”, said Dr Michel.

When asked if the airbag system may be seen in the current generation car before it is replaced by an all new vehicle in 2020, Dr Michel said “I am not an engineer, but I don’t think it is a difficult thing, and we are looking at it at the moment.”

It is widely expected that the next-generation Amarok will also spawn a wagon version, where safety equipment is much more at the forefront of buyer’s minds. This vehicle is certain to be developed with a full suite of safety and driver assistance technology available.

In the interim, though, we’ll be paying close attention to the sales of the new V6 variant to see if the lack of some passive and active safety equipment does anything to dull the power appeal.

Are you a pick-up buyer? Is power more important to you than safety? Let us know in the comments below.

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