Volkswagen says it will decide this week to create a new company in the US to sell battery-electric vehicles under the long disused Scout brand. The first two vehicles would be a pickup truck and an SUV designed specifically for off-road use. The company’s supervisory board is expected to approve the plan on May 11, sources familiar with the company’s plans have told TechCrunch. The pickup truck will be approximately the size of the newly announced Ford Maverick, which in turn is about the size of the Amarok pickup truck Volkswagen sells in other markets.
Older readers may remember the Scout as a plain Jane, 2-door 4X4 manufactured by International Harvester in the early 60s. It was a competitor to the original Ford Bronco, back in the days when solid axles and manual locking front hubs defined 4-wheel drive off-road vehicles.
According to Electrive, International Harvester, which made farm machinery, trucks, and a few cars, went out of business in 1985. The truck part of the business continued on as Navistar, which Volkswagen acquired in 2020 and later merged with its Traton truck division. That deal included the rights to the Scout brand.
Anonymous sources have told TechCrunch the new Scout vehicles will not be based on the ubiquitous MEB platform but will have their own dedicated chassis designed for off-road vehicles with higher ground clearance. Speculation that Volkswagen might resurrect the Scout brand first cropped up last fall 2021 after Volkswagen Group of America Chief Operating Officer Johan De Nysschen mentioned the idea during a conversation with the media.
[Note: De Nysschen is the poster child for the concept of failing upward. Some may remember him as the former head of Cadillac who famously declared electric cars had no future and that Cadillac would never build one.]
At that time, a design sketch also surfaced showing two possible Scout vehicles — a pickup truck and an SUV that bear a passing resemblance to the Rivian RiT and R1S. That sketch was shared with TechCrunch by its anonymous sources, who claimed the SUV would have a starting price of $40,000 — less than half the price of the R1S.
A New Business Under The Volkswagen Umbrella
If the plan is approved, Scout will be incorporated as a separate business within the Volkswagen Group and will be funded with an initial investment of $100 million. Where the vehicles will be made is unknown at the this time. There are reports that Volkswagen is considering a second factory in the US to manufacture electric vehicles. That could be located near its existing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, or the company could chose another location.
Volkswagen Group boss Herbert Diess seems intent on bolstering the company’s presence in the US as a hedge against possible political disruptions to its business in China. Recently, Germany’s Manager Magazin wrote, “The new America offensive is a reaction to the new geopolitical situation. The war in Ukraine is particularly damaging to Europe, according to Wolfsburg. The importance of having a strong presence throughout the rest of the world is becoming correspondingly more important. In order to reduce dependence on China at the same time, the automaker wants to strengthen its US business.”
The Scout brand could help Diess achieve several of his more ambitious targets. Volkswagen plans to become the largest global seller of EVs by 2025 and to double its market share in the U.S. to 10% by the end of this decade. The new Scout pickup truck could be just the size vehicle many Americans want as full size pickup trucks get larger, longer, and heavier. It would also be the right size for many global markets. One unanswered question is how this idea fits in with reports that Ford and Volkswagen are developing a midsize electric pickup truck together.
The watch word in the auto business today is “ferment.” Changes are sweeping through the industry at an unprecedented pace. New battery technologies are coming to light on an almost daily business. Truthfully, every legacy automaker is facing an existential crisis and many household names today will disappear from the marketplace in the next few years.
Tesla is the leader of the pack when it comes to manufacturing electric cars but of all the other companies, Volkswagen — under the guidance of Herbert Diess — is working the hardest to stay relevant. We don’t know if any of these leaks and rumors will become real.But we can say, if anyone makes a smaller version of the Rivian R1S and sells it for $40,000, the line of potential customers will be down the street and around the block in a heartbeat. Build it, Volkswagen, and they will come!
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