VW Could Bring Electric Pickup, New Beetle EV, to U.S., Says CEO

VW could be the next in a growing line-up of manufacturers set to bring an all-electric pickup to the U.S. market, Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess calling it a “good idea” during an online forum on Reddit.

VW Tanoak NYIAS 2018
VW CEO Herbert Diess told a Reddit forum he thought an all-electric pickup from VW would be a “good idea.”

The executive, one of the industry’s biggest proponents of electric propulsion, also indicated the Beetle could once again be revived, this time in all-electric form, sharing the MEB platform used for most of the other EVs coming from the VW brand.

It’s been decades since Volkswagen sold a pickup in the U.S. It does offer the midsize Amarok in Europe and other foreign markets. But it seems Diess might have something bigger in mind. Asked if the German automaker might consider something along the lines of the full-size F-150 Lightning coming from Ford this year, he called it “a good idea.”

If that were to happen, VW would join a long list of manufacturers planning to bring electric pickups to market. The Rivian R1T and GMC Hummer EV already are on sale. The Ford Lightning follows mid-year, with the Chevrolet Silverado due out in 2023. Ram will build a 1500 EV in 2024 and GMC has a second model, a version of the Sierra, in the works. Toyota and Nissan have confirmed plans for EV pickups. And, of course, Tesla has the Cybertruck, though recent comments by CEO Elon Musk have raised concerns about its future. The current timeframe has it arriving some time in 2023.

Could another Ford deal be in the offing?

Would VW build a full-size pickup of its own? Or could it be talking to Ford about some sort of alliance? That seems unlikely, at least when it comes to getting a version of the Lightning. On the other hand, the two companies have a number of joint ventures underway. In fact, the Amarok and the global version of the Ford Ranger have been described as “twins under the skin,” since they share virtually everything but their exterior designs. Ford, meanwhile, is using VW’s MEB architecture for two battery-electric vehicles it will sell in Europe.

2020 Volkswagen Amarok
While VW produces a pickup, the Amarok, Diess suggested full-size pickup, which VW doesn’t currently produce, would be a good choice to electrify.

That platform is extremely flexible and eventually will underpin dozens of models sold by not only the Volkswagen brand but Seat and Skoda, as well.

The first version to reach the U.S., the Volkswagen ID.4, will get an MEB-based sibling next year when the American version of the ID.Buzz Microbus makes its debut.

Return of the Beetle?

During the session, titled “Ask Me Anything,” Diess was hit with what was an inevitable question: what about an all-electric version of the iconic Volkswagen Beetle?

“Our most emotional car in our history is definitely the microbus. This was my first priority to bring this icon back to life. But yes, many other emotional cars are possible on our scalable MEB platform,” Diess said during the Reddit forum.

The somewhat optimistic response actually shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, Diess had pointedly stated that the nameplate could stage yet another return when the last Beetle rolled off the assembly line in Puebla, Mexico three years ago.

Under Diess, the Volkswagen Group plans to invest more than $100 billion in electrifying its line-up. That has caused him more than a little stress, as the powerful I.G. Metall labor union has been trying to get the CEO fired because the transition threatens to reduce manufacturing jobs. So far, Diess has hung on, backed by the Porsche and Piech families that largely control the automaker.

What’s your favorite cheese?

During the session, the exec was asked a variety of questions on a wide range of topics. He noted, for one thing, there are updates coming for the ID.4. These include new software that should allow faster charging, as well as “Plug & Charge” capabilities that allow a motorist to simply plug into at public charging stations and have billing information automatically transferred from the vehicle to the charger.

When asked about where the auto industry might be in 25 years, Diess responded “My guess: All cars will be able to drive autonomously, very safe, probably no accidents at all anymore. Emission free, very comfortable — cars will take you where you want to go and when you want to go.”

The organizers of the session received more than 1,000 questions in advance and, while they largely kept the focus on automotive, one reader did get to ask Diess about his favorite cheese.

“Manchego,” he responded, adding, “I am Spanish by heart.”

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