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VW Australia keen on ‘Amarok SUV’

New variant: A Volkswagen Amarok-based SUV derivative is not entirely out of the question, and the company's Australian arm would keenly look into bringing it here if it were to enter production.

German giant VW could follow rivals’ lead to make rugged Amarok-based SUV for Oz

5 Jul 2011

VOLKSWAGEN Australia would put up its hand for a rugged Amarok ute-based SUV if it becomes reality in the next few years.

The managing director of Volkswagen’s Australian subsidiary Anke Koeckler would not rule out such a model and told GoAuto at the Australian International Motor Show on July 1 that the German giant’s local arm would warmly welcome an Amarok wagon if it eventuated.

“If they would actually investigate it, we would for sure also look into it because the SUV segment is very big here in Australia,” she said. “But so far there are no investigations, not at the moment.

“There are no clear plans. I mean there are some thoughts - you can have a lot of ideas, you know, in the mind - but it is just too early.” Several other car-makers produce ute-based SUV models, some of which – namely the Mitsubishi Triton-based Challenger and Nissan Navara-based Pathfinder – are already available in Australia.

Others, such as Toyota’s HiLux-based Fortuner (also known as SW4 in some markets), are popular across developing markets in Asia, the Middle East and the Americas, where a cheap and rugged off-roader is preferred to more expensive and sophisticated models.

3 center imageLeft: Volkswagen Australia managing director Anke Koeckler at AIMS 2011. Below: Artist's impression of Ford Ranger-based SUV variant, Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Challenger.

Isuzu also sells a D-Max ute-based SUV called the MU-7 in Thailand, while General Motors is likely to release an SUV derivative based on the ladder chassis of the upcoming Chevrolet Colorado.

As we’ve reported, Ford Australia is currently also developing an SUV version of its upcoming locally developed Ranger one-tonner – codenamed T6 – for release in international markets, perhaps including Australian.

Global Blue Oval product chief Derrick Kuzak told GoAuto in April that Ford intended to tackle Toyota’s huge share of the “lucrative” market held by the likes of the Fortuner.

However, Ms Koeckler said that for now Volkswagen was more concerned with rolling out more Amarok derivatives, including single-cab, petrol and automatic versions, to add to its current line-up of diesel/manual-only dual-cab models.

“I think for us we have to right now make sure the current model is coming in - we get new engines, the single-cab is coming in, which is also important for us - to build up the momentum and to concentrate on that before we are doing other things,” she said.

Launched in Australia in late February, Volkswagen’s first dual-cab utility has attracted just 507 sales so far, the vast majority of which are 4WD.

Freshly-released VFACTS industry sales figures for June show that the Amarok had its best-performing month in Australia to date, with Volkswagen selling 130 units – 128 of which were the more expensive 4WD variants.

The 4WD Amarok’s June market share was 1.4 per cent, meaning it has a long way to go to make a significant dent in the sales of the segment’s big players – the Toyota HiLux, Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton, Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado.

Ms Koeckler said that demand for the new dual-cab was currently outstripping supply because production at the company’s Argentine plant was still ramping up.

“We can sell even more but demand is quite high and we can’t fulfil it right now to be honest.

“We had some processing issues at the new factory, so the cars that are arriving took more time than we expected, but we are working on that.” The range is likely to receive a sales spike next year when the single-cab variant is added to the line-up in the second quarter of 2012.

Turbocharged 2.0-litre TSI petrol versions and the option of a class-leading eight-speed automatic transmission will also join the range next year.

Volkswagen lowered the entry-price of the Amarok in May to $31,990 with the introduction of an entry-level 2WD dual-cab variant, dubbed the TDI340.

As the name suggests, the TDI340 produces 340Nm of torque along with 90kW of power at 3850rpm, differentiating it from the rest of the Amarok line-up’s 120kW/400Nm peak performance figures.

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