How Scout Motors plans to bring rugged, retro cred to the EV era
“We’re working out of in every single place,” Scott Keogh mentioned with amusing in his first interview as CEO of Scout Motors, the American EV upstart spun out of VW Group.
Whereas most established automotive gamers name the pictures from sprawling, company palaces, Scout bases a lot of its operations — at the least for now — out of a WeWork close to Washington, D.C.
Scout Motors’ base of operations will ultimately “anchor” close to the $2 billion manufacturing unit in South Carolina that was introduced Friday, however Keogh believes distant work will probably be key to Scout Motors’ success. The corporate already has crucial staff working remotely round the United States and abroad.
“I imagine firmly that era is over,” Keogh mentioned of the traditional days of centralized organizations. “I don’t suppose it exists anymore in the spirit of People, in the spirit of the firm.”
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Capturing the spirit of People is a giant a part of what Keogh hopes and plans to do with Scout Motors, an all-electric model launched with a $100 million funding from Volkswagen that plans to begin transport its first automobile, an off-road centered SUV priced round $40,000, by the finish of 2026. Scout was the former client automotive model of Worldwide Harvester, which ended manufacturing in 1980 in the wake of labor disputes and the 1979 vitality disaster.
The unique Worldwide Harvester Scout was a go-anywhere, do-anything utility automobile, following in the footsteps of the unique Jeep however with a extra sensible, enclosed physique 5 years earlier than the Ford Bronco bolted onto the scene. “In our minds, Scout type of planted the seed, and should you take a look at virtually each SUV, they’ve mainly stolen that title and accomplished some modification of it,” mentioned Keogh, who then fired off acquainted nameplates like Trailblazer, Pathfinder, Explorer and Discovery.
These fashions could also be spinoff, however they’ve one vital benefit over Scout: They’ve all been in manufacturing in some unspecified time in the future inside the previous 40 years. Scout, in the meantime, is in the troublesome place of making an attempt to honor the previous whereas making up for practically a half a century of misplaced time. If that weren’t sufficient, Scout has to distance itself from Volkswagen, too.
Keogh used the phrase “clear slate” 4 instances throughout our interview, in reference to the whole lot from software program to dealership presence. With its Volkswagen ties, Scout Motors seemingly has a definite benefit over different EV startups in that it might theoretically piggyback into the a whole bunch of U.S. VW sellers. Nonetheless, Keogh says, there are benefits to following the path blazed by Tesla in defining a manner for producers to promote vehicles instantly to shoppers.
“We have now not determined, however we’re taking a protracted, laborious take a look at it,” Keogh mentioned about on-line direct gross sales. Traditionally, he mentioned, producers dominated the scene, however recently the dealerships have been calling the pictures, typically at the expense of everybody else. “It’s all the time been an trade that performed extra in direction of laws, industrialization, networkization, as opposed to what’s the greatest client expertise,” he mentioned. “That is the differentiator: Superior retail expertise centered on the buyer, centered on know-how.”
Scout Motors will launch its first two EVs in fast succession beginning in late 2026, Keogh confirmed.
First will probably be a small, off-road centered SUV that Keogh calls an RUV: a “rugged utility automobile.” The second is a bigger truck, which is able to “lean slightly bit extra on-road” when it comes to its driving traits. Particulars like vary and energy aren’t but set, however pricing for the RUV is supposed to begin in the $40,000 vary, whereas the truck will probably be “a bit north of there.”
Neither, although, will probably be missing in off-road functionality, a model new focus for the Volkswagen Group.
Each autos will probably be constructed on a bespoke, body-on-frame platform of the type traditionally utilized by the most succesful off-road machines. Manufacturing will happen in the United States, at the firm’s newly introduced manufacturing unit in Columbia, South Carolina.
A battery accomplice has not been introduced, however Keogh was adamant about structuring suppliers to take full benefit of the EV incentives provided by the Inflation Discount Act, which has home manufacturing necessities.
Scout’s new EV platform will share some elements with different Volkswagen Group vehicles, objects like HVAC elements, motors and inverters. However that’s the place the similarities finish. Scout Motors is aiming to supply driving character and functionality in contrast to the rest beneath VW Group, a behemoth firm that features a lengthy string of EV platforms. VW Group created the MEB that lies beneath the Volkswagen ID.4, its successor MEB+, the J1 Efficiency platform beneath each the Porsche Taycan and Audi E-Tron GT, and the upcoming PPE platform for the upcoming Porsche Macan EV.
As well as to a bespoke platform, Scout’s vehicles may even take radically totally different approaches to software program integration and the total person expertise. Some core features of the software program will probably be supplied by Cariad, the software program arm of Volkswagen. Keogh mentioned the base software program structure is in place. The person expertise will probably be radically totally different, he added.
Keogh factors to bodily touchpoints as a essential differentiator. VW’s ID.4 has been panned by many for its over-reliance on contact surfaces, for instance.
“We actually need to maintain a whole lot of the mechanical nature,” Keogh mentioned. “I feel should you take a look at the American consumers, sure, they respect software program, however they don’t need software program to be all-dominating. I feel you’ll see much more, let’s say old-school physicality, however in a great way.”
So no touchscreen-controlled vents à la the Tesla Mannequin Y, then? “I can just about affirm sure,” Keogh instructed me.
Scout’s two fashions are set for unveiling in early 2024. The corporate has already had a restricted screening at focus teams in California and Texas, the place the prototype autos have been stacked up in opposition to conventional choices like Broncos and newer entries from Rivian. Keogh anticipated the ideas to do nicely amongst extra EV-aware and pleasant viewers in California, however even the suggestions in Texas was sturdy. “We bought a few of the greatest outcomes that we’ve ever had in clinics, interval,” he mentioned.
And what about the Scout loyalists, who’re nonetheless repping the model at annual occasions like Harvester Homecoming? “In equity, it runs the gamut,” Keogh mentioned of the suggestions they obtained, with some discovering the model a bit too progressive. However, Keogh says, they want to transfer the model ahead. “We might now be on the Scout 8,” he mentioned, if Worldwide Harvester had by no means stopped making the vehicles after the Scout II. “Definitely you wouldn’t need the Scout VIII to be like the Scout II.”
For Keogh, the key to attracting clients is in the title. “It’s a easy line that we’ve been utilizing, however I feel it really works, this idea that the world does want extra Scouts. Scouts can manifest themselves in issues like mountain climbing, climbing Everest, let’s say the extra excessive aspect of scouts, or they are often dramatically much less excessive as nicely, to tailgating to somebody who is aware of the newest concepts.”
Whereas Keogh is adamant that the new Scout will honor the previous, it gained’t be a model hung up on legacy like a few of its gas-burning competitors: “I don’t need to make Scout a fossilized retro model that claims: ‘Pricey America, it’s 1977. Once more.’”