BANGKOK – Volkswagen took a small but potentially significant step at the Thailand International Motor Expo that wrapped up here last week, introducing its Amarok model into the world's biggest and most competitive 1-ton pickup market.

The first German 4x4 pickup to arrive here, the Amarok is expected to draw from a different consumer base than its competitive set.

Importing the Amarok fully built means it will be priced far higher than rivals, probably close to twice the asking price of models from the established pickup assemblers here, including Toyota, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Nissan, General Motors and Ford.

That means it will be up to VW to carve out a new niche with the Amarok.

Working in its favor, VW already has found success here slotting completely built-up imports into segments where customers are prepared to pay for perceived status, notably with its Caravelle passenger van. Now it believes it can repeat that trick with the high-end pickup.

“I would target B+ customers in Thailand,” says Smud Robbanjerd, marketing manager for Thaiyarnyon, VW’s local distributor. “Since the Amarok is purely (a) CBU car, then the retail price is driven to 1.89 million baht ($62,000). Therefore, I intend to put the Amarok in the same position as high-end SUVs.”

The Amarok will stand alone in the market and chase a more sophisticated consumer Volkswagen hopes will be drawn by the marque’s brand image and engineering heritage. Emphasizing its more “lifestyle” consumer target, the show vehicle featured a matte-finish orange exterior.

“We are considered to be the first German 4x4 at this moment,” Robbanjerd says. “There is no competitor.”

Volume projections are being kept confidential, but demand for the Amarok is increasing worldwide, the Thaiyarnyon executive notes.

The Thai market will get the double-cab version of the Amarok, equipped with a 2.0 BiTdi twin-turbo diesel engine generating 177 hp and 310 lb.-ft. (420 Nm) of torque. It will be mated to a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission.

Full-time 4-wheel drive, antilock brakes and electronic stability control are among standard features.

“We are providing only one version, which is considered high-spec,” Robbanjerd says, adding feedback from the expo has been positive.

The arrival of the Amarok here is viewed as a potential toe-dipper for VW, which long has been considering adding production capacity for the pickup in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region.

Robbanjerd declines comment on potential for local production but notes, “Obviously (a) CKD version, if possible, will drive the retail price down, and demand will definitely come.”

VW sales are expected to total 900 units here this year, rising to 1,100 “if we get the Beetle,” he says.