Ingolstadt - The premium brand bakkie market is, for the most part, uncharted territory.
Mercedes-Benz tried and failed with its X-Class, although it could be argued that the German brand didn’t do enough to distinguish its version of the Nissan Navara as a premium product. This, then, was likely more a case of doomed product than doomed segment, but the question remains: are any of the other premium car brands brave enough to build a bakkie?
Audi, it appears, might be taking that leap soon.
According to Autocar, a journalist attending the VW Group’s recent annual earnings function asked Audi CEO Markus Duesmann if the company was considering a pick-up, and to great surprise he said: “I can’t promise that we will do one, but we are looking into it”.
Although Duesmann tried to end the conversation there, he did add this extra little nugget: “Actually, we will present – not too far from now – maybe something". This is a strong hint that, at the very least, Audi will release a bakkie concept vehicle in the not-too-distant future to gauge interest in such a product.
But apart from the obvious fact that it would have to be a double cab, the format that an Audi bakkie would take remains completely up to speculation.
There are three possibilities here.
The most obvious, of course, would be for Audi to do a version of the new Ford-based Volkswagen Amarok bakkie. The new vehicle’s advanced tech and the availability of a V6 diesel engine certainly facilitate the creation of an upmarket bakkie. But given the limited production facilities available for the Amarok, which includes Ford’s SA plant, that move might not be as easy as it appears on paper.
The other two options involve the use of a unibody architecture for the Audi bakkie, which would make the most sense in our book as it would result in a product with far superior refinement and ride comfort. That could certainly be a unique selling point in the premium bakkie space. Audi could, for instance, use one of its existing SUV products, such as the Q5 or Q7 as a basis.
Granted, when it came to off-roading, such a product would not be a match for its traditional ladder frame rivals, but would that really be a problem for Audi’s customers?
The third option, and a very plausible one given the company’s electrification ambitions, would be to launch a battery-powered bakkie based around one of the VW Group’s dedicated EV platforms such as MEB or the more premium PPE architecture that’s going to underpin the A6 e-tron and other products.
Either way, it would be very interesting to see a premium brand launch a bakkie in the coming years and at this stage it appears that Audi is most likely to do so.