And the company insists the new Amarok will have “Volkswagen DNA” even though it is likely to be powered by Ford engines and built in a Ford factory.
In a media briefing this week, Volkswagen revealed it sent a team of designers from Germany to Australia 18 months ago to begin working on the next generation Amarok ute, which will be jointly developed with Ford in its Melbourne design and engineering centres.
In a video, the head of design for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Albert Johann Kirzinger (pictured below), said: “We sent a dedicated design team from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles to Australia, to understand your environment better”.
Australia is the second-largest market for the Amarok globally, after South America where the current generation vehicle is made.
“For the last one and a half years, (the Volkswagen design team) have been really co-developing together with our co-operation partner, Ford, this beautiful car,” said Mr Kirzinger.
"We know what our Amarok means to our customers and fans in Australia. And that’s the reason why we are really working hard to have a 100 per cent Volkswagen, a true Volkswagen, and not only a rebadged Ford. I want you to rest assured that this Amarok will be a real beast.”
Mr Kirzinger delivered his message from a Volkswagen design studio in Germany while standing alongside a full-size styling model of the new Amarok, hidden under a car cover.
The creases in the cloth indicate the production vehicle could have some of the design cues from the bold design sketch (pictured at the top of this story), including two pronounced bonnet bulges, and large square wheel arches. The underside shows the framework of the styling buck and has no bearing on chassis layout.
Later in the video, the head of Volkswagen’s Melbourne design team, Gu Han Kim, said: “We’re here to do our very best. We’re here to work hard and to work closely with our development partner to fulfil expectations our Amarok fans and customers have.
“So what can we expect from the Amarok? Just like the current Amarok, it will define the benchmark of its class again. No question about that. And in terms of design, it's going to be impressive, and a clear member of the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles line-up.
“So Australia, stay tuned, stay excited. Something great is coming up.”
However, Volkswagen executives were not able to clarify if Germany had sent any chassis engineers or engine and transmission calibration experts to Australia – and whether the next Amarok would drive differently to the next Ford Ranger (artist impression pictured above and below).
For example, the jointly-developed new Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50 utes have different bodies but are mechanically identical, right down to the steering and suspension settings – even the tyre pressures – and drive exactly the same as each other.
When asked if the next VW Amarok would have unique calibrations for engine, suspension and steering, a Volkswagen Australia representative said: “We’re not at that level of detail of understanding yet. So, what influence our colleagues can have on those elements, it's still a work in progress.”
When asked if the switch to a joint project with Ford would bring an end to V6 turbo diesel power matched to permanent all-wheel-drive, a Volkswagen Australia representative said: “We'll see, I guess is the answer.”
However, the boss of Volkswagen Australia Michael Bartsch was adamant the next Amarok would have the attributes favoured by loyal local buyers.
“The really short answer … is it will not be the same mistake Mercedes and Nissan Navara made,” said Mr Bartsch, in a reference to the failed partnership that saw Mercedes prematurely axe the X-Class ute, which was based on and jointly developed with the Nissan Navara.
Volkswagen Australia Commercial Vehicles executive Ryan Davies told media: “We're not a silent partner in this project. We're a key part of it. And we’re certain that the car is going to have Volkswagen DNA at its core, and will redefine the segment as the benchmark once again.”
CarAdvice understands the next Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok will share a twin turbo 2.0-litre diesel and a single turbo 3.0-litre V6 diesel, both of which will be matched to the 10-speed automatic transmission jointly developed by Ford and General Motors in the US.
However, testing has shown this 10-speed automatic is susceptible to calibration differences; in GM cars it’s a smooth operator, in Fords it can shunt between gears.
It is unclear whether the Ford Ranger V6 turbo diesel will be matched to a permanent all-wheel-drive system or the current part-time heavy-duty four-wheel-drive set-up.
However, switching to permanent all-wheel-drive would be prudent given the amount of power the V6 is trying to put down – as it could easily over-power a rear-drive set-up, especially in the wet.
Questions remain over the size of the next generation Volkswagen Amarok. The current model has the widest cabin and cargo hold in the class.
However it remains to be seen whether the next model based on the Ford Ranger will shrink in size – or whether the Ford chassis can be scaled so that VW can maintain the current model’s large cabin and extra width between the wheel arches in the ute tray.
MORE: Everything Volkswagen