Scouts back: Volkswagen is reviving an off-road name

With giant all-terrain tires, short overhangs, and lines drawn straight from the 1970s International Scout II, this first Scout sketch showcases the potential design future for the revived brand. Volkswagen AG

German automaker Volkswagen announced today that it will revive the classic off-roader Scout as an electric vehicle and will build a new US-focused brand around it by 2026. Initially, the brand will focus on a modern SUV the size of the Volkswagen Atlas and Honda Ridgeline – a pickup truck Size, they both ride the same all-electric platform optimized for off-roading that will be built at a yet-to-be-determined US facility.

The original Scout was built by International Harvester Corporation (IHC), from 1961 to 1980, and created a loyal fan base like those of the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco before IHC’s financial troubles ended. In 1985, financial problems experienced by the International Humanitarian City led to its reorganization as a manufacturer of heavy trucks and engines Navistar.

Volkswagen gained access to the Navistar rear catalog when its commercial truck division, Traton Group, merged with Navistar last year.

scout drawing pickup
The drawing of the SUV was accompanied by a pickup truck with a passenger compartment with an obvious connection. Volkswagen would like to sell pickups in the US, but its international models are too expensive to sell at the 25% “chicken tax”. Volkswagen AG

Two months after the acquisition, Johann de Nischen, COO of Volkswagen of America, hinted that a Scout revival could be in the works and that such a product would face the Rivian, but “at $40,000 instead of $70,000”.

Exact details of where the scouts 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 as much as $1 billion, into the project. As reported by The Wall Street JournalVolkswagen hopes to build 250,000 spotlights a year.

That would be an ambitious goal for any new electric brand, but the Scout is a “startup” with huge support from automakers, an attractive brand background and an existing fan base. It is also ideally placed to give Volkswagen access to America’s best-selling segments.

1980 International Harvester Scout II Rallye
1980 International Scout II Rallye. Classic Scouts now charge very high prices and are often the basis of modern off-road buildings like these. Volkswagen hopes its new brand can take advantage of this fan. Alex Kwanten

What is scouting?

Given the popularity of military surplus jeeps as fun off-road vehicles, IHC created the original Scout to blend the capability of those vehicles with car-like comfort, and launched the original Scout in 1961. While it might seem basic and utilitarian to today’s eyes, the Scout was a find for off-road enthusiasts, Jeep, Ford and General Motors have responded directly with the original Wagoneer, the Bronco and Chevy Blazer.

The Scout was originally designed to be configured as either a pickup truck or an SUV with a removable roof, layouts that continued into the more popular second-generation Scout II, introduced in 1971.

Common throughout its life, unrelated financial problems and labor strife in International Humanitarian City forced the company to sell the specialist product to an Indiana recreational vehicle builder in May 1980. The project by October of that year brought production to a halt. sudden.

1963 International Scout 80
The original 1960s Scout would seem basic and utilitarian to most customers today, but it was one of the first SUVs to attempt to combine the comforts of a vehicle with the uncanny talent of a pure off-road vehicle. Alex Kwanten

As classic off-road drivers have boomed in popularity, so have prices for nice classic Scouts, especially the larger and better-fitting Scout II.

The plans for the first batch of Scouts focus on just two sketches, one of which bears the name of Volkswagen designer Nico Pressler. Pictured is a short and mid-size four-door SUV with similar proportions to the Scout II and a larger four-door pickup. But in bringing the Scouts back, Volkswagen recorded not only the history of the second base Scout, but all of IHC’s other episodic passenger cars.

Prior to 1975, IHC also built full-size pickups and SUVs, and there were several Scout versions. The new company could revive the Terra pickup, the long-wheelbase Scout Traveler, the proto-Bronco-Raptor Scout SSII, the full-size pickup, and the Chevy Suburban-size Travelall.

Volkswagen’s expanded EV ambitions

Volkswagen is the world’s second largest automaker by sales, after only Toyota, but it is not a major player in the United States, with a market share of just 5%. However, the auto industry’s famous identifier 4 has given it an 8% share of the booming US electric car market.

On a recent earnings call, CEO Herbert Diess explained to reporters that the company will increasingly focus on electric vehicles, “which we view as a historic opportunity to gain market share in the United States.”

A ready-made set of domestic trucks and SUVs with an existing fan base will certainly help, although how many ordinary consumers remember the old Scouts is an open question. Ford thought the Scouts had enough recognition to try and buy the name from Navistar in 2019, only to be turned down.

Although this week’s showings hint at what a first profile scout might look like, there’s still a lot of work to be done. These vehicles are intended to handle products like the Rivian R1T and Jeep Wrangler, forcing a higher level of off-road refinement than the ID.4 platform. Although they will benefit from the technology of Volkswagen Group like Bentley, Audi and other subsidiaries, it is likely that the Scouts will get their own architecture. They will also have their own factory.

1972 International Travelal
These products haven’t been mentioned yet, but IHC has also built an SUV the size of a Suburban, the Travelall…
1971 International Pickup
And a long-range line of full-size half-ton and three-quarter-ton pickup trucks. Scouts may do the same one day. Alex Kwanten

The entire Scout brand is rooted in its very historical and American origins. That’s in addition to the 25% “chicken tax” tariff on light trucks, which prevents Volkswagen from offering the Amarok pickup to the international market here, both of which dictate domestic production, or at least in North America. Volkswagen’s facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Puebla, Mexico are fully occupied by other products, which means a new facility.

Like Bentley, Scout will have its own design and corporate structure. “The company we will be creating this year will be a separate unit and brand within the Volkswagen Group, independently managed,” Volkswagen Chief Financial Officer Arno Antlitz said in a statement released this morning.

“This is in line with the new group routing model, small units that operate intelligently and have access to our technology platforms to increase synergies,” Antlitz continued. 2026 is less than four years away, so the Scout will have to be really agile to have the vehicles ready by then.

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