After years of evaluation, Volkswagen will introduce its first pick-up in years in 2008, targeting the likes of the Toyota Hilux and Mitsubishi L200, company sources have told just-auto.

The vehicle is being developed under a project named RPU (Robust Pick-Up) coordinated by the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles division.

The new model will have variants for Europe and emerging markets and will be made in three factories.

The first will be Hanover, in Germany, compensating for the decision to make the LT-replacing Crafter model alongside the Mercedes Sprinter at DaimlerChrysler factories in Dusseldorf and Ludwigsfeld. The LT was produced in Hanover.

The company will also produce the RPU project model in South America.

The Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles trucks and buses plant in Resende city, Brazil, is the natural option to build the new vehicle, but the current strength of the Brazilian real increasing the cost of production here is prompting VW's board to also consider the Cordoba car plant in Argentina.

Volkswagen will produce right-hand drive pick-ups in South Africa and a fourth assembly line is being considered for China.

The project started at the end of the 90s but has changed course over time. The model was first envisaged as a luxury pickup, (think Touareg with cargo box, similar to the AAC [Advanced Activity Concept] exhibited in 2000). Then the project focused on a pure commercial workhorse vehicle.

However, according to just-auto sources, the definitive project is a mix of the two - a pick-up with a modern car like-design suitable for both leisure and commercial use like the Toyota Hilux, new Mitsubishi L200 and the Ford Ranger B2000 twins all made largely in Thailand.

VW hasn't had an in-house-designed pickup model since the Caddy, based on the original mid-70s Golf. More recent Caddy models have been rebadged Seat commercials. The 1990s saw a deal where VW built Hiluxes in Germany badged as both Toyotas and VWs.

Rogério Louro