Volkswagen U.S. CEO: Amarok Could Come Here if Chicken Tax Goes Away
While the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado took center stage during at the 2013 Los Angeles auto show, other midsize trucks already available in other markets are just waiting to cross onto U.S. soil. All it would take is a new law from the federal government, the automaker recently explained.
At the Los Angeles auto show, Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, said the German automaker would seriously consider bringing the Volkswagen Amarok stateside if the U.S. government killed its 50-year-old Chicken Tax. For those not around during the Lyndon Johnson Administration, the 25-percent tariff on foreign pickups was created in response to a hefty tariff European nations imposed on American chickens. (The U.S. was accused of dumping its over-plump birds on Europeans at a heavily discounted price.) The original American tax included things such as potato starch, brandy and light trucks imported into the U.S. While everything but the light trucks were later removed from the tariff, the fee has continued to make small pickups made overseas unaffordable for half a century.
One could argue (and I am), that this needless tax has also made the price of midsize pickups made in the U.S. artificially high, as there is no competition. But there have been rumblings that the Chicken Tax could go the way of the dodo bird, as it has become a pawn in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
“We do not have any plans to introduce a VW pickup in the U.S. market,” Browning said in Los Angeles. “But if there was no chicken tax, that would be a good time to reevaluate that.”
Indeed, for the midsize truck aficionado, there are plenty of tiny trucks built and sold overseas that, currently, will never see a Home Depot parking lot in America. Even the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado is a beefed-up version of the Colorado sold elsewhere. Ford continues to sell its Ranger overseas, though the truck was discontinued here. Toyota sells the Hilux and Mitsubishi has the Triton. Ford skirts the Chicken Tax for its Transit Connect by claiming the vehicles are passenger vehicles, and then dumps the passenger part of the vehicle. In the past, other foreign automakers have also bypassed the law through various methods, all of which I approve.
Really, the best small pickups for consumers will likely come from automakers that do not have a larger full-size pickup in their lineup. That would allow companies like Volkswagen or Hyundai, another automaker that has denied plans to build a pickup for the U.S. but still would be great at it, to sell a true small pickup. Those companies would not have to worry about the small truck cutting into sales of more profitable full-size offerings. They would also be free to create true small pickups that offer all of those things small pickup owners want such as four-cylinder diesel engines, tiny payloads and car-like rides for two people.
But of course, this would require a federal initiative, which should not leave small pickup lovers too optimistic.