With the announced closure of the Nissan Navara factory in Spain and the shift of VW Amarok production from Germany to South Africa, 2020 is set to witness the death of pickup truck production in Europe.
This is a hugely significant move as, despite pickup truck sales increasing across Europe, OEMs are increasingly reluctant to field them in their line-ups due to the huge penalties incurred for exceeding the average LCV CO2 emissions which we’ll come onto in a moment.
Where are our pickup trucks produced?
First, we’ll have a quick look at where our pickup trucks are produced. Unlike panel vans, the vast majority are already manufactured outside of Europe:
Ford Ranger – Silverton, Gauteng, South Africa
Mitsubishi L200 – Laem Chabang, Chonburi, Thailand
Nissan Navara – Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain but moving to Rosslyn, Gauteng, South Africa from 2021.
Toyota Hilux – Prospecton, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Isuzu D-Max – Phrapradaeng, Samut Prakan, Thailand
Volkswagen Amarok – Hannover, Lower Saxony, Germany but moving to Silverton, Gauteng, South Africa (Ford factory) from 2022.
SsangYong Musso – Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, South Korea
Why aren’t pickup trucks manufactured in Europe?
To answer this question, we have to briefly turn back the clocks.
Depending on how you apply the term, ‘pickup truck’ production can be traced back to the Daimler one-tonner of 1896 but it wasn’t until the early 1950’s that pickup trucks became distinctive models with fixed body-coloured side panels that gave them that distinguishing, integrated appearance.
This trend was pioneered in the US and caught on this side of the Atlantic after the war with early examples including the Citroen 2CV pickup, Morris Minor pickup and Fiat Musone pickup. While they never replicated the success they had in the US, they were cheap and easy to construct as they were based on passenger car models.
The 1980s was a turning point for pickup trucks. While car-based pickup trucks like the VW Caddy (Yugoslavia), Peugeot 504 pickup (France) and Ford P100 (Portugal) were selling well, the bigger, dedicated 4×4 designs from Asia were starting to be launched.
While some of these, like the Isuzu KB and Mitsubishi L200, were initially produced in Europe as well, economies of scale soon forced the production out of Europe. The notable exception was Nissan Barcelona, which started producing the Nissan Navara in 1998, Renault Alaskan in 2016 and Mercedes-Benz X-Class in 2017.
For a short while, this was Europe’s only pickup truck factory until Volkswagen launched the Amarok – its first pickup truck since the Taro – which it produced at its Hanover facility alongside the Transporter van.
End of production
In February 2020, Volkswagen announced that it would cease producing the Amarok at Hannover by May and moving production to South Africa, then in May, Nissan revealed it would be closing its Barcelona factory, where it produces the Navara, Renault Alaskan and Mercedes-Benz X-Class, and also moving production to South Africa.
This is largely due to the fact that pickup truck sales in Europe, although rising, are much smaller than every other continent, other than Oceania.
In Barcelona, the Nissan factory produced just 53,000 vehicles in 2019 – just over 25% of its 200,000 capacity. With such a dangerously low number, Nissan will close the factory and move to a newly renovated factory in Roslyn, near Pretoria in South Africa.
In Hannover, Volkswagen manufactures the Transporter and Amarok in the same factory, although Amaroks made up just 30,000 of the 250,000 vehicles in 2019 and most of these were exported to outside the EU. VW is partnering with Ford for the next generation Amarok, and the American manufacturer will produce it alongside the Ranger in Silverton near Pretoria, freeing up capacity at Hannover for the Transporter.
The other reason is that the EU will be placing a restriction on manufacturers of 147g/km from September 2020 for the average Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) range and the penalties are extortionate (€95 per g/km per vehicle over the limit). High emitting pickup up trucks count as LCVs and therefore raise the range’s average CO2 output significantly.
This has led to Mercedes-Benz dropping the X-Class completely and most other manufacturers are planning to restrict sales in this segment.