Australia reigns as the world’s top export market for the Volkswagen Amarok ute/pickup, and as such will almost certainly play an increasingly important role in all global decisions related to the vehicle line.
Only Argentina, where the ageing Amarok is produced for many markets including ours, accounts for more volume. Australians bought 9282 units last year, overtaking Brazil, though it still finished well behind most rivals from Thailand (Ranger, HiLux, Colorado, Triton and the like).
More remarkably, about 80 per cent of these were the V6 versions, priced from $53,990 drive-away and upwards of $70,000 at their higher levels. A ‘richer’ mix you’ll find nowhere, and this is almost as important as outright volume.
This V6 stat befits a wider trend in Australia, where utes now account for almost 20 per cent of the total market, and where the newer Toyota HiLux SR5 and Ford Ranger XLT are the two most popular vehicles.
Volkswagen rightly expects sales to grow further, once it introduces the new 190kW/580Nm Ultimate 580 and the circa $50k Core V6 versions later this year, the former designed to head-off the new Mercedes-Benz X350d at the pass.
Volkswagen Australia’s standing as the world’s key Amarok export market is not merely about parochialism. It means we get more consideration from the chiefs in Germany when they’re finalising the next model, due around 2020/21.
“It’s quite exciting, I think there’ll be some really strong Australian involvement in that, we couldn't be more happy about it,” VW Commercial’s local chief Carlos Santos told us, though the specifics of this will need to wait.
We’d be surprised if there was anything as sizeable as a Ford-style Australian R&D program, or even a Toyota- or Holden-style tuning operation conducted by VW, but some level of local research and testing seems likely.
“We’ve got a great seat at the table and they definitely take notice of us. It’s so big and competitive in Australia, the market offers and campaigns, it’s more aggressive than any other segment,” Santos added.
“[Head office in] Germany think, if Toyota can sell 45,000 HiLuxes and Ford can sell 40,000 Rangers in Australia…”, the implication being that there’s still an untapped volume opportunity here. VW doesn’t like Toyota and Ford outselling it four-to-one in any segment, clearly.
We know bugger all about the second generation Amarok for now, though we’d bet on it remaining a separate product to the MQB-based ‘lifestyle’ unibody pickup being considered by VW in the US (previewed by the Tanoak concept), where the Amarok is neither made or sold.