It's hardly shaped like one, but the Volkswagen Tarok concept pickup bound for the 2019 New York auto show is a balloon.
More specifically, it's a trial balloon for the automaker to gauge appetite and interest in a VW-branded pickup in the U.S. The Tarok is already scheduled to be built and sold in South America, although prevailing winds may bring it to the States.
It's neither the first time VW has toyed with the idea of selling a pickup in the States—VW produced and sold the Rabbit pickup until 1984—nor is it the first time they've shown a pickup at the New York auto show.
Last year, the VW Atlas-based Tanoak concept truck debuted at the auto show as a similar trial balloon, although VW execs behind the scenes were bearish on the truck's future. Like the Tanoak, this year's Tarok concept largely is based on the VW Atlas SUV, which is already built in the U.S. and clears a significant hurdle on the road toward full production of a VW truck.
DON'T MISS: Read our 2019 Volkswagen Atlas full review
The Tarok rides atop a wheelbase that stretches 117.7 inches from hub to hub, 0.4-inch longer than the Atlas, and it's roughly the same width as the SUV. The Tarok has seats for up to five adults, but unlike any other pickup sold in the U.S., the rear seats fold forward to extend the bed via a pass-through in the cab. With the rear seats folded forward, the Tarok's bed measures longer than 6 feet—with the seats up it's shorter than 5 feet, much shorter than any other pickup sold in the U.S.
VW Tarok Concept
VW says the Tarok will carry more than 2,200 pounds in the bed, but didn't specify towing capacity. That's likely because the Tarok, which will be built and sold in South America sometime this year, is powered by a 1.4-liter turbo-4 that's unlikely for the U.S., if VW offers it here at all. Instead, an Atlas-based pickup would be powered by either a 2.0-liter turbo-4 or 3.6-liter V-6 already found in the big VW SUV, the latter of which can tow up to 5,000 pounds when equipped.
That is to say, if interested Tarok buyers want to tow at all. VW's pitch for the Tarok largely focuses on the pickups off-roadability. The Tarok offers 9.6 inches of ground clearance and approach, breakover, and departure angles that far surpass the Honda Ridgeline and base Chevy Colorado pickups. The Tarok is equipped with all-wheel drive and includes off-road and snow traction modes.
Inside, the Tarok features a 9.2-inch touchscreen paired to VW's 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
VW says consumer interest will dictate the Tarok's future in the U.S. and execs at the automaker have expressed an interest in bringing to market a VW pickup before. This year, VW announced a loose alliance with Ford to produce mid-size pickups abroad, and higher-ups at VW have said they would consider offering an affordable pickup in the U.S.
The Tarok, or something like it, may just fit that bill.
For more from the 2019 New York auto show, head over to our dedicated hub.