rampdesign #3

The Scout

In the beginning, there was the Scout. A precursor to all modern SUVs. With its simple design and solid build, the heavy-duty off-roader has cult status. Volkswagen is well aware of this fact. And now, more than forty years later, has plans to revive the storied brand. With an electric powertrain. Scott Keogh, CEO of Scout Motors, explains what sorts of challenges and opportunities lie ahead – and how mountain climbing inspires him when it comes to choosing the color of a car.

  • Text & Interview
    Iris Soltau
  • Photos
    Scout

As big as possible, as wide as possible, as powerful as possible: pickups and SUVs are enjoying a phenomenal boom in the United States. Not only do they dominate the roads in rural regions, urban luxury car buyers are also increasingly opting for the utility vehicles, transforming them into a lifestyle accessory. Domestic brands like Ford or General Motors are especially popular, while German manufacturers are still having a hard time penetrating the core segment of the American automobile market. Volkswagen plans to change all that. The VW Group is gearing up to launch a spectacular comeback of the historic Scout.

Scout? What Scout? Okay, a brief history lesson to begin with: The International Harvester Scout is an off-road vehicle that was produced over 500,000 times between 1961 and 1980 and still enjoys cult status in America today. The Scout is regarded as the first vehicle to transfer the bare-bones genes of the Willys Jeep into a vehicle suitable for everyday use – five years before the Ford Bronco. In a way, the Scout is the granddaddy of the modern pickup truck.

With this heritage behind it, the brand is moving forward into the future. The plan is to produce a pickup and a rugged SUV for the U.S. market – both with an electric powertrain. “Electrification is the key to success,” says Scott Keogh, the former Head of the Volkswagen Brand in North America, who was named CEO of Scout Motors last year. Production is scheduled to start in 2026 at a new assembly plant being built in South Carolina with around $1.3 billion in state subsidies

One of the trademarks of the original Scout was the sound of its V8 engine. Now you’re reviving the brand with an electric powertrain. What risks does this project entail?

The true trademark of the heritage Scout models wasn’t their sound but their pioneering versatility. The Scout was the first SUV that was equally at home on an off-road trail, at a job site or taking your family out to dinner. We intend to recreate that versatility, while thoroughly modernizing it in an all-new, all-electric platform. From our market research, we’ve seen many customers say, “The Scout might be my first EV.”

You’re reinventing an iconic brand that hasn’t produced a new car in forty years and lives primarily from its fans. How do you approach a project with such a strong legacy?

We see this as an amazing opportunity. We’re not starting from scratch, after all, we’re starting with a community of fans who have kept the Scout alive and thriving all these years. We are engaging the Scout community on our forums, we are visiting them at their clubs and events, and we value their input as we continue to refine our concept. Besides the ­enthusiasts, there is an even larger community of individuals who have a nostalgic connection to the brand. We often hear things like, “I remember riding around with my grandpa in his Scout,” or “My family vacations were in a Scout.” These nostalgic connections are powerful and emotional, and we plan to tap into that.

The Scout is largely unknown in Europe. Can you tell us a bit more about what the brand stands for?

The Scout was always a warm, joyful brand that emphasized community and togetherness. When we look across the competitive landscape today, we see products and brands focused on dominating the terrain around you. We see an opportunity for Scout to be a brand that stands for connection – connection to the people you’re with, connection to the environment around you, and connection to your vehicle.

“We’re not starting from scratch. We’re starting with a community of fans who have kept the Scout alive and thriving all these years.”
Scott Keogh
How does design translate the essence of the brand core?

The Scout will combine a digital experience with a tactile one. Scouts will be designed to be personalized through thoughtful pre-integration for several accessory categories. The versatile seating and usable interior space will also connect you to the people you’re with. It’s also critical that the Scout is designed with legitimate off-road credibility to get you to any trail, campsite or fishing hole. The best way to connect to nature is to experience it. The brand should also feel cohesive no matter where and when you experience it – from the vehicles to our website and apps, to experiences, to physical spaces, to our hooded sweatshirts. This is a unique opportunity to define how customers experience the Scout brand from a clean sheet of paper.

That sounds like design is the key to success for you, is that right?

Design does play a critical role for Scout as a company, and ensuring a holistic look is absolutely important. As such, we will let the designers take the lead. But of course, it’s not like one person has all the answers. The result of that is a design team that looks to each other for strength and guidance but has a strong sense of collaboration with our other disciplines. We don’t think in terms of limits. We’re Scouts, after all – we go further.

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The idea of the car is changing in line with technological progress. What do things look like in your particular segment of SUVs and pickup trucks?

There is a clear macroeconomic trend in America: “Space is the new luxury”. Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, many Americans have more hybrid-work flexibility and have rediscovered the outdoors. They are spending more time than ever camping, fishing, hiking and doing other outdoor activities. They are also increasingly moving out of mega-cities and into smaller cities and towns. Work, play, family, hobbies, errands and adventures are all blending into one another – and their vehicle needs to match this “ready for anything” spirit. Because of this, we’ll continue to see rugged SUVs and pickup trucks focus on delivering useful innovations, while maintaining their fundamental form factor and requirements.

"The result of that is a design team that looks to each other for strength and guidance but has a strong sense of collaboration with our other disciplines. We don’t think in terms of limits. We’re Scouts, after all – we go further."
Scott Keogh
What about sustainability?

We can distill Scout’s approach to sustainability down to one word: respect. For starters, respect for our employees: A sustainable company needs a motivated team – from the C-Suite to the paint shop – to deliver lasting results. New and innovative ideas come when all employees feel like they can speak up. Secondly, respect for the environment: We know that our target customers fish, hunt, farm, camp and off-road and that their environment is important to them. Building on our all-electric vehicle core, we will further decarbonize our operations, use sustainable materials in our vehicles, and strive for less-than-zero waste across our company, to cite just a few examples of our ambitions.

Looking beyond the world of cars, which product represents ­perfect design for you?

Perfect design is embodied in many products that I love and use nearly every day. From Blackwing pencils to La Sportiva hiking shoes to Felco F2 gardening shears, the products that I love always work and get more beautiful with age. Often the products that I love anchor around my passion of climbing. My Petzl Ice Axe is perfectly weighted and shaped, and each dent and scratch is a story and an adventure that makes the axe more beautiful. Another great climbing product example is Hyperlite bags. They are laser-focused on lightweight materials and simplicity. It forces you to bring only the essentials up the mountain. But I also like products that mask their complexity. The Apple Watch Ultra has a rugged appearance, but with very simple graphic elements. Its leading capability – from its compass to its GPS – is not at the forefront of its UX and can be accessed when needed. Its technical complexity doesn’t disrupt its everyday use.


"Perfect design is embodied in many products that I love and use nearly every day. From Blackwing pencils to La Sportiva hiking shoes to Felco F2 gardening shears, the products that I love always work and get more beautiful with age."
Scott Keogh
Is there any one color that could best highlight the design of the new Scout?

Colors are a statement and become an extension of your brand when you get them right. Several iconic American companies have built their brands around clear color associations – John Deere with green and Coca-Cola with red are two examples. I mentioned that one of my hobbies is mountain climbing, and I’ve always observed orange as an interesting opportunity space. From rappelling ropes to the handle of my ice axe, the right orange can feel modern, technical and iconic. I see an opportunity here for Scout to find inspiration from its heritage: Omaha Orange ran on heritage Scout models, a color that I’m certain would still turn heads sixty-five years later.

Iris Soltau

Iris Soltau

Freelance Editor
Iris Soltau's strengths? Finding entertaining shoots for dry topics. Tracking down stories. Spotting trends before the others do. Writing structurally and to the point. Polishing foreign texts until they shine. After a daily newspaper traineeship and studies in German and English in Hamburg, she worked as deputy editor-in-chief of the lifestyle magazine BLONDE MAGAZINE and deputy head of department at PETRA, but also as editorial director and head of copy at MAXI. And now? She writes for us.

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