Inside VW’s Scramble To Bring Back the Scout Off-Roader
Ever since MotorTrend broke the news VW had acquired the Scout trademark in 2021 and was bringing the classic off-roader back, we’ve been digging for new details. VW executives have been tight-lipped about their plans since officially confirming the creation of the Scout brand in mid-2022, but now our anonymous source has provided a look inside the nascent automaker.
We’ve known from the start the Scout trademark was acquired by VW when its commercial truck division, Traton, acquired Navistar, the company born out of International Harvester’s bankruptcy in the 1980s. VW later clarified it would not just build a new Scout SUV, but start a whole Scout brand which would include, at minimum, an EV SUV and an EV pickup truck. Our source further explains that Scout has been launched as an independent company wholly owned and financed by VW Group, not a subsidiary of one of the company’s existing brands.
Currently, our source says, both leadership and engineering are located in Germany, but as Scout will be primarily an American brand, everything is getting ready to transfer to the U.S. Office and R&D space is already opening up, and the hunt for a factory is on. According to our source, the new company was in the process of deciding between building its own factory and hiring a contract manufacturer like Magna or Foxconn.
Fresh reporting out of Germany today from Automobilwoche citing their own company sources says VW Group has decided to build a Scout factory in the U.S. , no doubt in order to take advantage of the new tax credits for domestically produced EVs. VW of America currently operates a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that builds EVs and could expand its footprint there or chose another location in or out of state. The report also confirms a production start date of 2026.
Three years isn’t much time considering how much work there is to be done. We already knew VW had decided to build the Scouts on a new EV platform for “rugged” vehicles, but according to our source, that’s pretty much all that’s been decided. Neither design or engineering are locked, and by the sound of it, aren’t anywhere close. Some factions within the roughly 150-person company are pushing for a true Wrangler and Bronco competitor complete with removable doors and roof, but not everyone is convinced the company needs to go that far. There are also questions of how deeply the new Scout brand should lean into the original Scout SUV’s agricultural heritage.
Still, our source says, leadership understands the Scout brand needs to stand out among the crowded field of electric SUVs that will be on-sale by 2026. The brand has to have a unique selling proposition in order to maximize the value of the Scout name and sell in meaningful numbers, otherwise this whole thing could turn into a costly boondoggle.
Part of the reason the brand hasn’t settled on a direction yet is because it’s still hiring key executives. A chief technical officer, who would conceivably settle the debate about how Jeep-like the brand needs to be, has yet to be named. That person will also likely decide whether two motors, one front and one rear providing all-wheel drive, will be sufficient or whether three- or four-motor models are necessary to compete with vehicles like the Rivian R1S and R1T, the GMC Hummer EV Pickup and SUV, and the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz EQG.
Regardless, the people already working at Scout have plans to demonstrate just how capable it’ll be regardless of what it looks like or how many body panels are removable. A second source within Scout tells us the groundwork is already being laid to race a pair of Scouts in the Baja 1000 in the coming years, the same way Ford’s been showing off the Bronco and other off-road products lately. One race truck will be built from a stock vehicle while the other will be a full tube-frame race truck running some version of the production motors and battery.
It’s no small feat to design and engineer a new vehicle in just three years, even if the platform is already done. Building a factory and a standalone dealership network in the same amount of time is an equally huge task. VW Group certainly has the money and technical might to get it done, but it’s an ambitious timeline all the same.
Source: Read Full Article