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Oz input in VW Ute

Robust argument: VW Australia is involved in the development of a new product for the first time.

Volkswagen’s upcoming Robust light truck will have some Australian know-how

Volkswagen logo19 Aug 2008

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

AUSTRALIAN input has been sought from the start for Volkswagen’s upcoming light truck.

Due for release in 2011 or 2012, the ‘Robust’ (as it has been unofficially dubbed) is a one-tonne style light commercial vehicle in the mould of the Toyota Hi-Lux.

Volkswagen will not disclose what input its Australian operations has given, but the need for a cab-chassis model is believed to have figured prominently, as has a heavy towing capacity, adequate ground clearance, sufficient dust sealing and a suspension system capable of coping with our terrain.

Spy photos for the Robust point to a traditional four or five-seat dual cab design mounted upon a separate ladder-frame chassis, with a car-like interior, a large loading area in the rear, plenty of ground clearance, and the potential for four-wheel as well as rear-wheel drive.

There are also suggestions that the Robust will spawn a family of fixed-body and cab-chassis variations in much the same manner as the Volkswagen Transporter.

A five-seater wagon version, to compete against the likes of the upcoming Mitsubishi Challenger, is also on the cards, with reports suggesting that it might go under the name of Namib.

Engine choices are expected to mirror those of the Transporter range, with diesels in four, five and six-cylinder configurations, as well as some petrol powerplants.

 center imageLeft: Volkswagon Transporter and Toyota Hi-Lux.

The Robust represents the German company’s first serious tilt at the light truck market in Australia and replaces a number of early Golf-based pick-up vehicles devised in the late 1970s.

It figures highly on Volkswagen Australia’s future model hit list, with the company projecting to at least double its 2500 annual unit penetration of the commercial vehicle market.

According to managing director Jutta Dierks, the Robust has been developed principally for a market like Australia.

“We are a very big market for utes,” she told GoAuto.

“And for the first time ever we are the most important market for this model. South America and Australia are the big markets for this ute.”

Mrs Dierks added that Australian input has been given at the very beginning of a Volkswagen’s development phase for the first time.

A decision of when and where the Robust will be built has yet to be formally decided, although some reports suggest that Volkswagen’s operations in Argentina may get the guernsey, as well as South Africa, where this sort of vehicle is also very popular.

“It’s still quite far away, at least two to three years,” Mrs Dierks told us.

She sees Australia’s input in the Robust project as an opportunity for Volkswagen Australia to have a larger say in other aspects of future product development, including having greater availability of automatic transmission on a wider selection of models.

“We try to let them know that, if we want to be successful - and this is not rocket science – they must listen to what the markets say they need,” Mrs Dierks explained.

“For us (this meant asking): What does a ute need to have to make it a really popular vehicle in Australia? They may not know or may not realise how important (some things) are.”

A Robust ‘concept car’ is expected to be displayed at the 62nd Hanover commercial vehicle expo in Germany next month.

“I’m just happy that we are involved,” Mrs Dierks said.

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