After weeks and months of rumors, Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess has confirmed that a badge-engineered version of the Ranger pickup is one of the possible product tie-ups between his company and Ford.
In a sit-down with Automotive News, Diess said that, while VW’s partnership with Ford is mainly focused on commercial vehicles for the European market, a range of mutually beneficial opportunities exist between the two automakers. With its overseas-market Amarok pickup growing long in the tooth, VW can easily see a Ford in its future. American buyers could see a Volkswagenized Ranger, too.
“There’s nothing signed yet with Ford. We are in talks,” Diess said. “Most of the talks have been centered around our light-duty vehicles — our small commercial vehicles business in Europe, where we found huge synergies. We are both relatively small in size against our peers, so what we’re talking about is sharing a few platforms and manufacturing sites there, which makes sense. And within the dialogue, we are also touching other options, but this will be the main focus if we come to a conclusion.”
The body-on-frame Amarok started production in 2010, employing a range of diesel engines to compete with other can’t-get-’em-here truck offerings. Development of a new model would cost money VW would probably prefer not to spend. Meanwhile, the Ford Ranger, which debuted in its present form in Europe in early 2016 (and still isn’t on sale in North America), offers buyers a choice of four- or five-cylinder diesels and a range of high-tech features.
As both companies have worked together in the past, Diess said talks are progressing well. “It feels good, and I hope we can conclude a case,” he said.
On November 1st, Scott Keogh takes over as CEO of VW’s North American region. As part of the job, Keogh’s being handed more autonomy than ever before, and it’ll be up to him whether a potential Ranger-based pickup is made available to American buyers, Diess said.
“If the Ford relationship works out well, we would have an Amarok successor, which would be then appropriate for sales worldwide — potentially as well for the United States,” Diess said. “The other option is a unibody pickup, which is something for America, which is probably still a bit risky.”
Earlier this year, the company unveiled an Atlas-based concept truck — the Tanoak — to gauge interest in the idea of a unibody VW offering for North American pickup buyers.
Diess said the Ranger platform swap is just one of many decisions VW might make in the near future, adding that Ford could make use of his company’s dedicated MEB electric architecture for its own electric vehicles. Ford is just one automaker VW is considering licensing its platform to.
Closer to home (your home…), the German automaker needs to decide where to take its American manufacturing landscape. While the automaker hopes to build certain I.D.-badged electric vehicles in the U.S., as well as more SUVs, there’s more than one way to go about this. Diess admitted that its Chattanooga assembly plant is presently too small to fulfill the automaker’s vision, meaning a second plant — or an expanded Chattanooga facility — may lie ahead. Again, this will be Keogh’s decision.