German automaker Volkswagen announced today that it will revive the classic Scout off-roader as an EV and build a new U.S.-centric brand around it by 2026. Initially, the brand will focus on a modern, Volkswagen Atlas-sized SUV and a Honda Ridgeline-sized pickup, both riding the same off-road optimized fully electric platform to be built in a yet to be determined U.S. facility.
The original Scout was built by International Harvester Corporation (IHC), from 1961 to 1980, and established a fanbase as loyal as those of the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco before financial problems at IHC saw production end. In 1985, IHC’s financial problems led it to reorganize as heavy truck and engine-maker Navistar.
Volkswagen gained access to Navistar’s back catalog when its commercial truck division, Traton Group, merged with Navistar last year.
What’s a Scout?
Noticing the popularity of military surplus Jeeps as off-road fun cars, IHC created the original Scout to blend the capability of those vehicles with car-like comfort, releasing the original Scout in 1961.
While it would seem basic and utilitarian to today’s eyes, the Scout was a revelation for off-road fans, and Jeep, Ford and General Motors directly responded with the original Wagoneer, Bronco and Chevy Blazer.
The Scout was originally designed to be configured as either a small pickup or an SUV with a removable top, layouts which continued in the even more popular second-generation Scout II, introduced in 1971.
Popular throughout its life, unrelated financial problems and labor strife at IHC forced the company to sell off the niche product to an Indiana RV builder in May of 1980. The pinch on gas-hungry vehicles from the second OPEC crisis and the 1980 recession finished off the venture by that October, bringing production to an abrupt end.
As the popularity of classic off-roaders has boomed, so have the prices of nice classic Scouts, particularly the larger and better-proportioned Scout II.
Plans for the initial batch of Scouts center on just two sketches, one of which bears the name of Volkswagen designer Nico Pressler. A short-ish four-door midsize SUV with proportions similar to the Scout II and a larger four-door pickup are depicted. But in bringing back the Scout, Volkswagen not only taps the history of the basic Scout II, but all of the other tangential IHC passenger vehicles.
Prior to 1975, IHC also built full-size pickups and SUVs, and there were many versions of the Scout. The new company could easily revive the Terra pickup, the long-wheelbase Scout Traveler, the proto-Bronco-Raptor Scout SSII, the full-size pickups or the Chevy Suburban-sized Travelall.
Price & Invest Expectation
A couple of months after the acquisition, Volkswagen of America COO Johan de Nysschen hinted that a Scout revival could be in the works and that such a product would take on Rivian, but, “At a $40,000 price point instead of $70,000.”
The exact details of where the Scout vehicles will be built and how much Volkswagen will invest in the project are still murky, but the company will put at least $100 million, and possibly up to $1 billion, into the project. According to reporting by the Wall Street Journal, Volkswagen hopes to build 250,000 Scouts a year.
That would be an ambitious target for any new EV brand, but Scout is a “startup” with a major automaker’s backing, a compelling brand backstory and an existing fanbase. It’s also perfectly placed to give Volkswagen access to the biggest-selling segments in America.
Expanded EV Ambitions at Volkswagen
Volkswagen is the world’s second-largest automaker by sales, trailing only Toyota, but isn’t a major player in the United States, with only a 5% market share. The automaker’s popular ID.4, however, has given it an 8% share of the burgeoning U.S. EV market.
On a recent earnings call, CEO Herbert Diess explained to reporters that the company will be increasingly focused on EVs, “Which we see as a historic chance to gain market share in the United States.”
A ready-made lineup of domestic trucks and SUVs with an existing fan base would certainly help, although how many ordinary consumers remember the old Scouts is an open question. Ford thought the Scout had enough recognition to try and buy the name from Navistar in 2019, only to be rebuffed.
Although this week’s renderings suggest what the first Scouts might look like in profile, much work is still to be done. These vehicles are meant to take on products like the Rivian R1T and Jeep Wrangler, which dictates a higher level of off-road optimization than the ID.4’s platform. Though they’ll leverage VW Group technology like Bentley, Audi and other subsidiaries, the Scouts will probably get their own architecture. They’ll also get a factory of their own.
The entire Scout brand is rooted in its historical and very American origins. That and the 25% “chicken tax” tariff on light trucks, which prevents Volkswagen from offering its international-market Amarok pickup here, both dictate domestic, or at least North American production. Volkswagen’s facilities at Chattanooga, Tennessee and Puebla, Mexico are both fully occupied with other products, which means a new facility.
Like Bentley, Scout will have its own design and corporate structure. “The company we will establish this year will be a separate unit and brand within the Volkswagen Group to be managed independently,” said Volkswagen AG CFO Arno Antlitz in a statement released this morning.
“This aligns with the new Group steering model, small units that act agilely and have access to our tech platforms to leverage synergies,” Antlitz continued. 2026 is less than four years away, so Scout will have to be agile indeed to have vehicles ready by then.
Volkswagen Group Statement:
Now, there is an official message that Volkswagen will revive the Scout brand in the US: electric pickups and SUVs will be produced under it. The start of mass production of new products is scheduled for 2026, and it is known that the production will be launched at the company’s American plant. The company expects that the launch of the new brand will help increase profitability and achieve a target share of 10% in this market.
Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen AG, said: “After Volkswagen’s successful turnaround in the US, we are now taking the opportunity to further strengthen our position in one of the most significant growth markets for EVs. Electrification provides a historic opportunity to enter the highly attractive pickup and R-SUV segment as a Group, underscoring our ambition to become a relevant player in the US market.”
If Volkswagen’s plans come to fruition, the new electric pickup will have quite a few competitors in the US market. He will have to compete for customers with the Ford F-150 Lightning, GMC Hummer EV, Chevrolet Silverado EV, Ram 1500 electric version, as well as Rivian R1T and Tesla Cybertruck.