Contrary to recent speculation, Volkswagen has not yet officially signed off on a rugged SUV based on the Amarok ute to compete with the Ford Everest and others, but there’s definitely some significant development underway.
The German brand confirmed this week that a rugged SUV based on ute architecture is back on the table in light of strong sales from rivals such as the Ford Everest, Toyota Fortuner, Isuzu MU-X, Holden Trailblazer and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport in key markets.
Among those key markets is Australia, which naturally shapes up as a perfect fit for a seven-seat wagon based on the Amarok — a pick-up that continues to gain traction against key rivals such as the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger.
Volkswagen actually made a concept Amarok SUV a few years ago that never received the production green light, but the next generation of the ute due around 2020 will likely form the basis of an off-road wagon this time around. The market for these vehicles has clearly matured.
“We’re talking about it again now… there’s been some success with competitors like MU-X and Everest and Colorado 7 and Fortuner, everyone is doing it,” Volkswagen Commercials Australia director Carlos Santos told us this week.
“I know there's something in works, nothing confirmed, but we would absolutely love to see it in Australia without a doubt. [But] it will be next-generation, it won’t be this generation. If it does come it’ll be the one due around 2020.”
Given the Amarok is already one of the most car-like utes to drive, and given it’ll soon have a turbocharged V6 diesel option, any future SUV derivative will likely sit at the premium end of the market next to the Australian-developed Ford Everest.
Ute-based SUV sales are growing fast in Australia as the market matures. The long-running Isuzu MU-X leads all comers this year with 4008 sales, ahead of the Pajero Sport (3212), Fortuner (2747), Everest (2183) and Colorado 7 (1376). Holden will soon turn the tables on rivals with its much-improved Trailblazer.
As we reported recently, one rival ute player not certain to stride into this off-road wagon derivative market is Nissan, with the company’s local boss Richard Emery recently telling CarAdvice that the in-development Navara SUV was no certainty to come here.