Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Volkswagen Amarok Pickup Gets New Life in South America

HomeAutomotiveThe Volkswagen Amarok Pickup Gets New Life in South America

The original Volkswagen Amarok pickup truck has soldiered on in South America while Europe and Australia transitioned to a new Ford-based model in 2023. Now, VW is giving the Amarok a stay of execution – unveiling a significantly updated version for 2024 tailored specifically for this region.

The facelifted Amarok will adopt some stylistic cues of its replacement, bringing it broadly in line with VW’s latest design language. However, underneath it retains the basic body shell and mechanical components of the 2010-vintage ute. Crucially, it will finally gain an array of advanced safety systems that have become expected for modern pickup trucks.

Why Do Only South Americans Get The Classic Amarok?

The Americas present a conundrum for Volkswagen. On one hand, it makes little financial sense for VW to re-engineer the Amarok just for this region or produce the new global model locally. On the other, losing the Amarok would put VW’s Pacheco, Argentina factory – and thousands of manufacturing jobs – in jeopardy.

As VW Argentina’s product and sales planning manager Francesco Pecchia explains: “Our Pacheco plant would be affected, which today produces two models – Amarok and Taos [a small SUV] – and would lose one if Ford manufactured the new Amarok for South America.”

“This would have greatly complicated the operation of our plant, with idle capacities and greatly complicating the viability of the business. It didn’t seem like a good alternative to us.”

The Amarok was designed and engineered by Volkswagen in Germany but has been produced in Argentina alongside the Taos SUV since 2010. Losing it would leave Pacheco as primarily a niche SUV factory.

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Meanwhile, the all-new Ford-VW Amarok is built in a Ford plant in South Africa – safe from having to compete against itself on price – and exported globally. Bringing it to Argentina could undermine Volkswagen’s operation while boosting rivals.

So while building an ancient ute exclusively for South America is hardly an ideal business case, it may be the least-worst option for preserving VW’s footprint.

2024 Volkswagen Amarok Receives 21st Century Tech

As a 2010 design, the outgoing Amarok lacked many comfort, convenience and safety features that most competitors have offered for years. Volkswagen is addressing this with an extensive overhaul for 2024.

Based on leaked images and insider reports published in South America, we know the updates span exterior and interior design, infotainment, instrumentation and – perhaps most significantly – accident avoidance technologies.

Visually, the restyled Amarok takes inspiration from the latest VW passenger vehicles with a completely new front fascia. This includes a large grille with bold VW lettering, slim LED headlights and a redesigned lower bumper. Tail lights, badging and other elements have also been updated.

Inside is where the changes get more ambitious. The Amarok gains the latest and greatest Volkswagen interior design and technologies as seen in the Taos small SUV.

Most noticeable will be a digital instrument panel spanning 10 inches across the dashboard. It’s a serious upgrade from the small rectangular displays flanking analog dials today. Infotainment is also improved with touchscreens seemingly growing from around 6 to 9 inches. Expect improved resolution, faster responses and over-the-air update capability.

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Other plush appointments like leatherette seats, soft-touch surfaces and chrome detailing will lift cabin ambience closer to premium competitors.

Safety a Priority In Updated Amarok

Now 13 years into production, the Amarok’s lack of active safety systems stood out like dogs’ balls. Features like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) have been a given on most new vehicles since around 2017 in an effort to reduce road trauma.

Volkswagen authority Motor1 Argentina reports the 2024 Amarok will add “more airbags” without elaborating on specifics. Logically, these would be side curtain airbags to provide additional protection in side-impact crashes. Their absence was a notorious Amarok shortcoming.

The flagship V6 model already has dual front, front side torso and driver knee airbag protection. So additional side curtain airbags across the range would bring it in line with expectations for a modern vehicle in developed automotive markets.

Even more notably, advanced driver assistance features will finally come to the Amarok. This includes AEB with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane departure warning and potentially blind spot monitoring.

Their addition will help address dismal crashworthiness results in Latin NCAP testing, where the current Amarok scored a mere 2 stars for adult occupants. Rival mid-size trucks manage 4 or 5 stars, demonstrating the significance of avoidance systems preventing serious collisions.

Engine Options Carry Over

While technology brings the aged Amarok into the late-2010s, its powertrains will continue untouched. Two familiar turbodiesel engines feature depending on the market: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and range-topping 3.0-liter V6.

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Argentina buyers mostly opt for the four-pot, while Brazil has consolidated to exclusively the V6 due to its ability to run on 20 percent ethanol. In Australia, the muscular bent-six made up around 90 percent of Amarok sales before this model was discontinued.

Transmission choices of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic carry over for the 2024 model year. Impressively, you also retain the Amarok’s generous 3500kg braked towing capacity and excellent off-road credentials thanks to selectable 4Motion all-wheel drive.

Amarok Production Secured In Argentina Until 2034 Volkswagen promises the intensive 2024 update will keep the Amarok fresh and competitive throughout South America for another decade until around 2034. This will give a proud 26 year run for a model many have written off as obsolete years ago.

Clearly building an ancient-by-automotive-standards vehicle exclusively for low-margin emerging markets is far from ideal. But as explained earlier, the business case stacks up for Volkswagen to keep the Amarok alive in its back yard.

The aging ute retains a cult following across South America, currently fighting Toyota’s dominant Hilux for top sales honors in Argentina. By giving it a new lease on life with much-needed upgrades, Volkswagen protects thousands of local manufacturing jobs and retains a presence in the critical pickup segment.

When even the equally-aged Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series can sell well enough globally to justify updating, perhaps keeping the Amarok on life support isn’t so absurd.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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