When Scout Motors' first electric trucks and SUVs roll off the assembly line in 2026, they will attempt to conquer the American market in ways that parent company Volkswagen has never been able to pull off before. And they will do this with something that's an increasing rarity in the growing electric market: actual, physical buttons.

Scout's president and CEO, Scott Keogh, and its chief designer, Chris Benjamin, both confirmed this at the brand's factory groundbreaking ceremony in Blythewood, South Carolina today. With their attempt to revive a storied American SUV nameplate, "screen fatigue" won't be on the menu. 

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Scout Motors is the VW Group's new electric truck and SUV brand

The Volkswagen Group already owns Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini and other brands. But it doesn't have the market share in America that it has in Europe and other places. The revival of the Scout Motors brand—designed and built in America, for America—aims to change that.

"Manual is important," Benjamin told me at the ceremony today, quickly clarifying he didn't mean that kind of manual, but rather the non-digital feel of the trucks. "We want to make sure that things you use every day and not buried somewhere in the screen. Easy, functional, tactile, all super important." 

He added, "Scout was a machine that always worked. We want to make sure the new one always works, too." 

In designing—from the ground up—an electric SUV specifically for the American market, the Volkswagen Group would've been hard-pressed for a more rugged icon than the Scout. Built by International Harvester from 1960 to 1980, the Scout SUVs and trucks predated the Ford Bronco, Land Rover Defender, Mercedes G-Class and other iconic off-roaders by years. The Volkswagen Group inherited the name through a truck acquisition a few years ago and decided to relaunch it as a vehicle very much of the moment: a retro-styled, fully battery-powered off-roader.

Gallery: Scout Electric SUV Rendering

But Benjamin, a former design leader at Stellantis, said he rejects the "retro" label. While nobody outside of the brand has seen the final Scout vehicles yet—nor are any of the specs known—he said it's more "heritage-inspired" than just a cynical throwback. "That's too easy," he said. "There are a few people who would say, make it exactly like the old one. But then you have quite a lot of people who aren't familiar with Scout's history and heritage, and they just want something that feels iconic, feels modern and feels cool. It's about striking the balance between those things." 

Designing the controls for a modern EV was about striking another kind of balance. Operating the majority of a modern car's controls through a touch screen can be harrowing enough at 70 mph on the highway; Doing so when you're driving off-road seems nearly impossible, or at least an immediate method for spraying your former lunch all over that screen. While details about the new Scout interiors remain even more guarded than the exterior, Benjamin gave some sense of what to expect. 

"We want to make sure that things you use every day are not buried somewhere in the screen," he said. "We're gonna have a cool (user experience) on the screen and all of that. But UX in itself is not limited to a screen."

1971 Scout 800B Comanche

In doing so, Scout will buck a trend that's increasingly dominating the future of cars. Besides cost reductions from getting rid of buttons, automakers have big plans for subscription software services, in-car gaming and streaming and various activities for when you're waiting at a charging station—or for the eventual day when cars drive themselves. Additionally, cars now come with so many advanced features that it's nearly impossible to make physical buttons for them all, so the solution has been more and bigger screens with increasing reliance on voice controls.

But this has raised a number of safety concerns, to say nothing of frustrating user interfaces. Some automakers have realized they went a little too far and started adding in more traditional buttons and physical controls. That even includes Scout's parent company Volkswagen, which recently had to add volume knobs back into its vehicles after owner backlash and is re-thinking how it implements buttons as well. "We're gonna do what we know works," Benjamin said. 

Benjamin also rolled his eyes a few when I brought up the sketches that have been released so far, saying, essentially, that the final design might be fresher than people think. "It won't be a Bronco," he said. 

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