The VW Amarok in action. Photo Courtesy of VWVans.UK

Volkswagen aggressively targeting Toyota's light truck market in Latin America


Volkswagen has designs on the small but rapidly growing Latin American market for light commercial vehicles, such as light trucks and commercial vans in Central and South America as well as the nations of the Caribbean.

From the Volkswagen Auto Group's Latin American headquarters in Miami, the German auto giant is planning the conquest of the lower latitudes south of the U.S. border, according to a recent post on MiamiHerald.com by Joseph A. Mann Jr.

“Toyota has been the owner of the light commercial vehicle market in Latin America for many years, but we are making a major effort to gain market share,” reportedly stated Fernando Badia, vice president of operations at the site, in charge of efforts to encroach on the territory of its Asian and American competitors.

This fearless charge into the valley of sales is lead by Volkswagen’s four-door, diesel-powered Amarok pick-up truck, considered a competent combatant in the scrimmage for market share against Toyota’s Hilux pick-up.

The various models of the Hilux are not available in the U.S. but sell well in South and Central America. However, the pick-ups were once sold in the U.S. under different names, but nothing the company sells in the U.S. today has any DNA from the Hilux series.

In Latin America Toyota also sells the HiAce, which can be configured as a minivan, commercial van, pick-up, taxi or ambulance, along with 4runners and RAV4 models. Toyota sold 101,000 light trucks, in the countries VW is currently targeting, during 2011 not including SUVs.

VW is also sending four other light commercial vehicles into the fray – in the form of the T5 van, the bigger Crafter commercial van, the Touran-derived Caddy and the smaller Gol-based Saveiro.

Since locating a Latin American aimed regional office in Miami during 2009, VW Commercial Vehicles has worked to establish a functional group of importers, retailers and service providers throughout the expansive region, beginning with the existing VW dealership network. Introducing the lineup of light trucks and commercial vehicles, they have boosted group sales to nearly 4.5 percent of the market, according to Badia.

“We started out with sales of 7,152 vehicles in 2009,” Badia said, “and last year we sold 17,229. In the first quarter of 2012, our light commercial vehicles sales are up 30 percent from last year. Our goal is to reach a 10 percent market share by 2018.”

VW’s best performance so far has been in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and Peru. Their top seller is the Amarok light truck, a pick-up fabricated in an Argentine plant in General Pacheco, a city in Tigre County, in the province of Buenos Aires.

Though only slightly over a third of the U.S. market, 5.7 million vehicles were sold in the region last year. VW thinks it can foster significant growth in light trucks and vans – especially as most of these vehicles have variants attractive to families and non-commercial uses. Even though the market in Latin America is currently growing more slowly than it recently has, as new businesses emerge in both urban and rural areas, VW sees opportunity as dispensable income increases.

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