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VW not scared of Benz X-Class

Premium pick: The Volkswagen Amarok is the only model that occupies the premium ute segment, but that will soon change with arrivals from Mercedes-Benz and Renault.

Amarok will hold its own against Benz X-Class and Renault Alaskan: Volkswagen

6 Jul 2017

VOLKSWAGEN Australia says it welcomes the competition for its Amarok workhorse in the form of incoming high-end utes from Mercedes-Benz and Renault, with the company confident that it can maintain its strong sales well into the future.

The production version of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class is set to be revealed midway through July and should hit Australian showrooms in 2018, with Renault’s Alaskan also likely to hit our shores next year.

Both models are based on the underpinnings of Nissan’s Navara, but the Benz will use its own V6 diesel paired with the company’s 4Matic four-wheel-drive system, in flagship guise.

The Amarok is currently the only ‘semi-premium’ offering in the pick-up segment, and despite a bumper month last month – VW sold 1196 4x2 and 4x4 units in June – sales of the 4WD version are down by 3.8 per cent year-to-date compared with the same period last year.

Speaking with GoAuto at the Golf ‘7.5’ launch in Victoria this week, Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) general manager of communications Paul Pottinger said the company was not fearful about the arrival of the X-Class and Alaskan, but suggested that the two rivals would need to more than just rebadged Navaras to properly compete.

“We really welcome more in that market, it is better for everyone,” he said.

“We certainly don’t fear the challenge. I think real competition is healthy.

“As long as those cars are not just badge-engineering exercises, which ours most certainly isn’t – it’s entirely from this group. It shares a drivetrain with a Porsche SUV and indeed an Audi SUV and we have had trade-ins on said Porsche SUV for an Amarok.”

VW launched the powerful 165kW/550Nm V6 diesel version of the Amarok late last year, in $59,990 plus on-roads Highline and flagship $67,990 Ultimate grades, with the kitted-out pair receiving widespread critical acclaim. They were followed by the facelifted version of the four-cylinder Amarok range in February this year.

When asked if Volkswagen could lose some sales to Benz and Renault when their respective offerings are launched, Mr Pottinger said: “They are not really known quantities at the moment. We have set the benchmark. The question I think is more for them – are they going to be good enough.

“Every indication is that it (X-Class) is going to be positioned above us.”

Amarok hit a sales high of 8545 units in 2015, and while its 4714 mid-year haul is about 3.9 per cent off the pace of the first half of last year, it could gain momentum as word of mouth spreads about the V6 diesel and exceed last year’s total, if not the 2015 record.

While VW executives might be happy with Amarok sales, the figures are well off the pace of the big hitters in the segment, particularly the segment-leading Toyota HiLux, which has captured 23,378 4x2 and 4x4 sales so far this year, and the second placed Ford Ranger on 21,638 units.

VGA managing director Michael Bartsch said he was “absolutely over the moon” with Amarok’s performance, and added that it was now one of the key models in the brand’s range.

“We have three pillar models right now,” he told GoAuto at the Golf launch.

“The Golf, the Tiguan, and the Amarok. Then we have some, what I would call, really important models that bring bandwidth to us, which is the Passat, particularly the Alltrack, and of course the Polo.

“But in the sheer volume segment, they’re the three pillar models. When you think about it, the Volkswagen brand has a history of being built off the back of successful commercial vehicles. The Amarok and that ute segment is a whole new world in terms of being both commercial and a ‘Pitt Street’ car. That car, I think, is a critical part now of the evolution of the Volkswagen brand.”

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