4 x 4 Australia - - 4cast -

VOLK­SWA­GEN has let slip that a Toy­ota For­tuner-ri­valling, seven-seat SUV based on the Amarok is def­i­nitely on the car­maker’s de­vel­op­ment ta­ble.

Un­der in­tense scru­tiny over why Volk­swa­gen Com­mer­cial chose not to add head-pro­tect­ing rear side cur­tain airbags as part of a ma­jor makeover for the Amarok ute due in Aus­tralia late this year, a spokesman told 4X4 Aus­tralia that they would need to be en­gi­neered in for the next gen­er­a­tion “for the seven-seat”.

“It [rear-cur­tain airbags] is un­der con­sid­er­a­tion for this gen­er­a­tion,” the spokesman said. Asked if the head­pro­tect­ing rear airbags would def­i­nitely be part of the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Amarok due around 2019, he said: “We will have to have it for this [Amarok] and for the seven-seat.”

It’s the clos­est we have come to con­fir­ma­tion that Volk­swa­gen is con­sid­er­ing the niche seven-seat of­froader as part of its fu­ture prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. It won’t need to be a big-vol­ume seller for the com­mer­cial divi­sion of VW, ei­ther, with Amarok de­signer Al­bertjo­hann Kirzinger in­di­cat­ing that an Amarok-based SUV would only need to at­tract a small num­ber of sales – about 1000 a year – to make it vi­able.

“When we look at a niche in the com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles, we’re look­ing at num­bers that are lower than one per cent [of to­tal sales],” he said.

Adding weight to the seven-seat Amarok’s de­vel­op­ment is a shift to a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel en­gine for the ute, which will help to move the heav­ier kerb mass of a wagon-based Amarok via a more ver­sa­tile spread of torque than the cur­rent twin-turbo 2.0-litre en­gine.

Aus­tralia is the sec­ond­largest mar­ket for the Amarok out­side South Amer­ica, with VW keen to main­tain a foothold here even as min­ing com­pa­nies step up their safety stan­dards to man­date side cur­tain airbags on all ve­hi­cles used on work­sites. The Amarok cur­rently wears a top fives­tar crash rat­ing in Aus­tralia – it was the first ve­hi­cle sold here to gain the top score with­out side cur­tain airbags. In­stead, it re­lies on a spe­cially en­gi­neered safety cell to pro­tect rear-seat pas­sen­gers in the event of a side-on col­li­sion.

How­ever, the seven-seat Amarok’s niche fu­ture may be over even be­fore it starts, with the car­maker – strug­gling in the wake of the emis­sions scan­dal – re­port­edly look­ing to cull up to 40 mod­els from its prod­uct line-up as part of cost-sav­ing mea­sures.

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