The forest site in Blythewood, South Carolina currently being cleared to make room for Scout Motors’ future electric truck and SUV factory is a very big deal on multiple fronts.

It’s the largest development the region has ever seen, estimated to bring some 4,000 jobs to produce 200,000 vehicles annually all for a projected $4.2 billion economic impact. It’s another feather in South Carolina’s manufacturing cap, following Volvo and BMW and turning the state into a burgeoning carmaking powerhouse.

And for Scout Motors’ parent company, the Volkswagen Group, it’s nothing short of a coup d'état; not just the revival of an iconic American brand, but a ground-up effort to make vehicles designed and engineered for Americans. 

Scout Motors Factory Groundbreaking 2024 Official Photos

None of this gravity is lost on Scott Keogh, the fast-talking New York native picked to lead the effort. The last time I saw Keogh, he was the Volkswagen Group’s American CEO, and he was showing me the then-new ID.4—another car crucial to both VW’s electric goals and expansion in the U.S. market.

But as important as the ID.4 is, it’s almost a drop in the bucket compared to the impact Scout Motors hopes to make when the trucks enter production in late 2026.

“At the end of the day, ID.4 was a product, a product we loved,” Keogh told me at the factory groundbreaking last week. “Here, we’re starting from a completely blank slate.”

VW Scott Keogh

Keogh in front of a classic Scout. Photo: VW

A blank slate may be exactly what the Volkswagen Group needs as it attempts to become an all-electric automaker while reckoning with intense competition from China’s automakers on its home turf, and the fact that it’s never really cracked the American car market the way it’s wanted to.

That last part is exactly what Scout Motors aims to fix.


How International Harvester Became The Volkswagen Group’s Scout Motors

The original Scout was an SUV before SUVs were even a thing. Built by Illinois-based heavy equipment manufacturer International Harvester between 1960 and 1980, it predated famous 4x4s like the Ford Bronco by years and remains immensely popular with off-road enthusiasts and classic car collectors even today.

Scout Promotional photos

After acquiring International Harvester’s successor company Navistar in 2020, the VW Group found itself in possession of the Scout trademark. That got the wheels turning: what could be done with this famous brand? Executives in Germany “wanted a bigger presence in North America,” Keogh said, “and Scout had that credibility.”

To prove the Scout brand was up for the task, Keogh and other members of the Scout team brought board members to an airport hangar divided into three sections. Each had a different focus, including a lesson in the brand’s U.S. heritage and some early scale models—and, crucially, a business plan. Whatever they said in that hangar, it worked. “There was excitement, and it just rolled from there,” Keogh said. 

Scout Motors Factory Groundbreaking 2024

That excitement yielded one of the most ambitious plans the company has ever executed, but it may be a necessary one. 

The VW Group is the second-biggest carmaker on the planet behind Toyota, but that isn’t something we see in the U.S. The company commands some 25% of the new car market in Europe and 14% in China; in North America, that number is only about 4%.

Though VW has been here longer than any other “import” brand, and the VW Group sees handsome sales and profits from luxury divisions like Audi, Porsche and Bentley, it has never made the kind of cars Americans buy in volume—namely, big, capable trucks and SUVs.

Scout electric pickup and SUV from Volkswagen Group

A more watered-down version of the Scout might have yielded a sub-brand for Volkswagen, or a re-bodied ID.4 with some retro-truck flavor. But the company decided that wasn’t enough, and instead, Scout Motors had to be a kind of startup effort inside the VW Group: a new factory designed to take advantage of U.S. tax incentives, and a new body-on-frame truck platform built from scratch.

While Scout Motors will share considerable know-how, resources and some parts from its VW Group cousins, it is a new and independent effort. (For context around that 200,000 annual production goal, the Volkswagen brand sold about 329,000 cars in the U.S. last year.) 

All of that ambition rides on a vehicle no one has seen yet, aside from some cursory sketches, and whose specs remain completely unknown. Keogh told InsideEVs that the Scout models could start in the high-$40,000 range, but otherwise they remain an enigma until their debut this summer.

But Keogh gave some hints in Blythewood: “This car, this platform, this everything was designed to compete here,” he said.

An SUV, And A Factory, Built To Last

To do so, they wanted to build a proper SUV with off-roading credentials that lived up to the Scout name. “We're not building something to navigate the strip malls of America, we're building something to navigate America,” Keogh said. (He did later that potential exports to markets like China are a possibility as production ramps up.) 

That off-road capability like you get in the Bronco or Jeep Wrangler—except powered by batteries, here—was key for Scout Motors. That’s why it’s slated to have locking differentials, tons of accessories at launch and actual, physical buttons instead of screen controls.

VW also tapped contract firm Magna Steyr, longtime maker of the Mercedes G-Class, to make something off-road-ready; that goal was also why modifying an existing electric platform didn’t work.

Scout Motors Factory Groundbreaking 2024

“We obviously gave this a lot of debate,” Keogh said of the plan to go body-on-frame. “We want to build something that's highly robust and highly capable. And I think Scouts came from that, so we thought it was smart to say, let's keep that integrity.” The result should be something like one of Rivian’s EVs, or the F-150 Lightning; it also will not be offered as a hybrid, even as VW has mulled releasing some of those stateside. 

"This is not a twin, or a brother, or daughter to any of the other platforms that we've ever had," added Jan Spies, Scout Motors’ head of production and a longtime VW Group manufacturing executive. 

Scout Factory Photo

That goes for the factory as well. Spies said the plant will pioneer various technologies and techniques that could be used across the rest of the conglomerate. When compared to existing factories that had to be converted for the era of “electromobility,” as Spies put it, this one is more designed from the get-go with environmental sustainability in mind. 

“When it comes to innovation today, we think it's about making it workable for the next 20, 30 years,” Spies said. “We're here in a state where for example, water is not yet a resource that is counted as much as maybe in Mexico… but it will be one day.”

Batteries, Dealers, And The ‘Electric Slowdown’

But many questions have to be answered in the next 2.5 years, provided the Scout Motors vehicles don’t face any delays.

For one, it is not known where the cars will source batteries from. Keogh said they won’t come from the SK Innovation plant in Georgia that supplies power cells to the Volkswagen ID.4, saying “they won’t work for a host of reasons I won’t get into.” In theory, the company may have its choice of suppliers as local battery production scales up across North America

The company’s sales strategy is another unknown. It’s going to have dealerships, Keogh said, but they will not be attached to existing Volkswagen stores. He added during the roundtable discussion that future decisions on sales will be released later. 

One can assume some Scout dealerships may end up attached to VW stores, but that won't happen by default. Furthermore, it feels unlikely a Volkswagen Group company would dip into some version of direct-to-consumer sales like Tesla and Rivian; doing so would likely draw the ire of their existing dealers. (Those VW dealers have already expressed some consternation since Scout Motors will be selling the kinds of trucks they have wanted to sell for years.) 

Scout Motors Factory Groundbreaking 2024 Official Photos

Arguably a bigger question for Scout Motors may be what the EV market looks like in 2026. Last week’s factory groundbreaking ceremony came after a year of record electric sales in America, but one marked by a slowdown in recent months. Moreover, the president whose policies pushed EV adoption may not be in the White House in two years. 

“We’re not naive to the headlines,” Keogh said. He added that the challenge of moving EVs in volume comes down to three things: costs, infrastructure and technology, meaning range, charging times and software. But he sees all three improving, even now.

“I think these three things are gonna line up quite well,” he said. “In my mind, I don't think salvation means, let's go let's go back, back, back. I think salvation is gonna come from constantly innovating and getting better technology. I’m an optimist on technology, and I’m an optimist on American technology.” 

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Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify known details around Scout Motors' dealership strategy. 

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