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RPM TV Website | November 28, 2020

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Is a bakkie the new crossover?

Peugeot 2008
Adam Schoeman

While we all considered the crossover segment as the latest and greatest category all vehicle manufacturers were hustling to access, it now seems that the demand for pick-ups (better described as bakkies in South Africa) is sparking growing interest.

PSA Peugeot Citroën is the latest manufacturer to suggest that it might be fast-tracking a bakkie, joining new entrants such as Mercedes-Benz and Renault.

No real announcement was made, but PSA officials did say that more concrete news relating to the bakkie would be made public next week.

It’s unlikely that Peugeot Citroën will enter this market alone, opting instead to team up with one of its current build partners, who include Fiat and Toyota. The number of cars sold in this segment  does not quite justify the research needed to supply an all-new new vehicle, hence the need for a partner.

Unlike other new models which often draw on existing platforms and kit, a bakkie needs to be rigid, large and puirpose-built to handle a tub full of sand or other heavy loads. Achieving this off an established platform is therefore unlikely to be viable.

Fiat has co-opted with PSA to build utility vehicles in the past, including the Peugeot Boxer and Citroën Jumper, while also collaborating on the Fiat Ducato joint venture. Fiat also has access to Jeep’s Grand Cherokee platform and the technology that goes into making it a formidable but comfortable utility vehicle.

However, Fiat is collaborating with Mitusbishi on an all-new bakkie of its own, which will rely heavily on the new-generation Triton one-tonner, which has not been released in SA yet. But whether that arrangement could be extended to include PSA- badged models remains to be seen.

Toyota, on the other hand, has worked with PSA on the C1/108/Aygo city car, as well as the Dispatch and Expert. Toyota owns one of the most celebrated bakkie platforms, the Hilux, but we are not sure if it would allow PSA access to its just-launched, all-new Hilux platform.

Mercedes-Benz and Renault have teamed up and are due to release a new pick-up soon, with prototype models already undergoing testing in South Africa, widely considered one of the heartlands of the bakkie.

The segment competition is very strong, with each of current contender carrying a legacy following that is both fanatical and devoted to the respective brand. But Volkswagen managed to crack the market with the Amarok, which wasn’t only a new entrant in the bakkie space, but convinced buyers that a small 2,0-litre turbodiesel engine could rival larger V6 petrol engines.

This might then be the right time for other auto makers to also try their luck with a bakkie.

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