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Scout will launch an SUV and pickup truck in 2026, built at new South Carolina plant

Scout Sites Plant in Columbia, South Carolina

Scout, a new division of the Volkswagen Group, selects Columbia, SC, to build a $2 billion assembly plant expected to create 4,000 jobs.

Scout Motors says it has selected Blythewood, SC, near Columbia to site its assembly plant to build two BEV utility vehicles set to debut in 2026.

Scout CEO Scott Keogh, the former CEO of Volkswagen of America, makes the announcement and offers some detail about the products and business plan via an interview with TechCrunch.

The plant will mean a $2 billion investment in the Columbia area and the creation of some 4,000 jobs. Keogh says the production target is 200,000 units a year. The first two products will be a Scout SUV and a pickup truck.

Keogh says Scout’s sales and distribution model has not been settled yet. The company could offer the franchise to selected VW, Audi and Porsche dealers in the U.S. But, the CEO tells TechCrunch, it is looking at Tesla Motors’ model of selling direct to consumers.

We have not decided (on the selling model), but we’re taking a long, hard look at it,” Keogh says of online direct sales. Manufacturers historically have dominated the process, but lately the dealerships have been calling the shots, often at the expense of everyone else. “It’s always been an industry that played more towards legislation, industrialization, networkization, as opposed to what’s the best consumer experience,” he says. “This is the differentiator: Awesome retail experience focused on the customer, focused on technology.”

Scout Motors is part of the Volkswagen Group, with the German automaker investing $100 million in the start-up, along with making systems and components from VW Group vehicles and parts bin.

The venture is the rekindling of the SUV brand that began life in 1960 as a product of International Harvester and ended in 1980. The brand had a good deal of brand equity with baby boomers but is largely unknown to younger buyers.

“In 1960, the original Scout revolutionized what it means to go places,” says Keogh. “What it means to see the world from the driver’s seat. What started in 1960 comes full circle today. Scout is once again reimagining the adventures that an off-road vehicle can deliver – only this time, it’s with an all-electric platform. Today, we are closer than ever to putting an important American icon on the road.”

The starting price for the Scout SUV will be around $40,000, with the pickup truck starting a bit higher.

Volkswagen AG’s board on Friday was set to also approve a North American battery gigafactory that is expected to supply Scout as well as VW vehicles.

Keogh says the vehicles’ platform will share components with other VW Group vehicles, such as HVAC systems, motors and inverters. VW Group has multiple BEV platforms, including the MEB, which underpins the VW ID.4; the MEB+, the J1 Performance platform supporting the Porsche Taycan and Audi E-Tron; and the PPE platform under the Porsche Macan BEV. But Scout says its vehicles will be built on “an all-new platform.”

The Blythewood Industrial Site, off Interstate 77, spans approximately 1,600 acres (647 ha), with the plant itself occupying 1,100 acres (445 ha). 

Keogh, who had extensive experience in marketing and public relations before becoming VWoA CEO, has been using an ad slogan in the company’s communications: “The World Needs Scouts.” That is a line he has hinted will stay in place for the launch.

While Scout has not been in production in 43 years, it’s worth remembering that the vehicle and brand were established years before the Ford Bronco SUV, but after some of the postwar Jeep Willys models such as the 1946 Station Wagon. Of course, the Chevy Suburban dates back to the 1930s.

The brand that came first in establishing the SUV market is debatable, depending on how you define the vehicles of yore. But don’t tell that to Keogh. “Remember,” he says. “Scouts go first. Scouts go farther. Scouts always come back to lead the way.”

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