Volkswagen has painted a target around the Toyota Hilux, a model it once built

Volkswagen has painted a target around the Toyota Hilux, a model it once built

Though it has forecast 10,000 sales in Brazil in 2010, Volkswagen has yet to announce the price of its first ever medium-size pickup, the Amarok. Only the top line Highline double cab version will be available in April with part-time four-wheel drive, six-speed manual transmission and a 160bhp, bi-turbodiesel two-litre, I4, 16-valve engine.

It is estimated that it may higher priced, with all options, than the rival Toyota Hilux SRV in comparable configuration, sold here for US$66,000, albeit with optional automatic transmission, a feature the new VW competitor will not offer.

The Amarok is produced only in Argentina in General Pacheco (Greater Buenos Aires) following an investment of $450m. Current capacity is 100,000 a year.

Brazil is expected to be the largest buyer and it will be exported to other South American countries, Mexico, Australia, South Africa and Russia as well.

In western Europe, demand for pickups is minimal, even for the single cab version due to arrive in 2011. The Amarok will not even be sold in the USA, the largest market in the world for this kind of vehicle.

This VW commercial vehicles division project started in Germany from scratch and took some five years to complete. Ironically, the main target was the Hilux, the model produced by Volkswagen in Germany under the Taro nameplate from 1989 through 1997 – it also built units for Toyota. These days, some of Europe's Hiluxes come from South Africa.

Last year, medium-size pickup sales totalled 110,000 in Brazil, a mere 3.5% of the total market. Nevertheless it is a highly profitable segment and fiercely fought over with nine models. The Chevrolet S-10 leads the pack (36% share)in a lower price bracket, followed by the Hilux (28%).

During a press launch and test drive for international media, in Bariloche, 1,000 miles southwest of Buenos Aires, the Amarok impressed with its on/off-road performance and equipment levels. The 1,147kg/2,526lb payload is the segment’s best.

The double cab is 5.32m/209.4in long with a 3.09m/121.6in wheelbase, nearly the same dimensions as the Hilux. Yet the Amarok is 11cm/4.33in (1.95m/76.7in) wider and 2cm (1.83m/72.04in) taller, setting the benchmark for room for five adults.