Volkswagen Group is going hard after increased market share in North America, where sales have languished for years, particularly after the notorious Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal ripped the heart out of the company’s diesel engine-based marketing strategy. The company has fought back by playing the SUV card. Today it sells three SUV models in the US — the midsize Tiguan, the large Atlas, and the compact Taos.
In May, the company announced that it was planning to develop a new line of electric pickup trucks and SUVs under the Scout brand, which it acquired in 2020 when Volkswagen Group purchased truck maker Navistar. In a press release this week, Volkswagen says it plans to develop and manufacture a “true American” electric rugged SUV and pickup truck brand in the US. Entering the market will help Volkswagen AG to deliver on its growth ambitions, which are aimed at doubling the market share of the companies that are part of the group — which includes Audi and Porsche — in the US.
For the past several years, Scott Keogh has been the head of Volkswagen Group of America and has steered the company back toward profitability during difficult times. The press release goes on to say he will now transition to become the president and CEO of the new Scout division. He will be succeeded at VOA by Pablo Di Si, who is the executive chairman of Volkswagen South American Region.
Volkswagen says that as part of its New Auto strategy, it intends to roll out the broadest electrified portfolio in the North American market. By the end of this decade, companies that are part of Volkswagen Group will offer more than 25 battery-electric models to American customers. It will soon start manufacturing the ID.4 compact SUV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which will help it meet high customer demand in the marketplace. In addition, the Group will build up dedicated EV capabilities in engineering, research and development, assembly, components production, and strong supplier partnerships.
Keogh To Head Scout Division
The leadership changes announced this week will take effect September 1. Scout will take a run at the electric pickup truck market, which will soon have models from Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, Ram, Rivian, Tesla, and even Geely competing for consumers’ dollars.
“Scott Keogh and Pablo Di Si both have played key roles in turning around the businesses in their respective regions, North America and South America,” said Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess. “In their future positions, they will be pivotal in helping the Group seize the historic market opportunities in the US, taking our growth strategy in the region to the next level.”
Scott Keogh has extensive experience in the automotive industry. He began his career in 1995 as general manager of marketing communications for Mercedes-Benz USA. Keogh joined the Volkswagen Group in 2006 as Chief Marketing Officer at Audi of America, Inc. In 2012, he assumed the role of President and CEO at Audi of America. Scott Keogh was appointed CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, and head of the Volkswagen Brand in North America in 2018.
Pablo Di Si began his career at Volkswagen Group in 2014 as CEO of Volkswagen Argentina and took over the position of CEO of Volkswagen Brazil and Latin America in 2017. Recently, he was appointed Executive Chairman of Volkswagen South American Region.
The electric pickup truck from the new Scout division may have distinctive styling, but it is likely to share some components with the Volkswagen Amarok and the new Ford Maverick, which Ford and VW are said to be developing together. Cracking the US pickup truck market won’t be easy. Toyota has been trying to do it for over 30 years with limited success. Nissan has all but given up on its quest to invade the US pick-em-up market.
But there is change in the air. Some customers have grown disenchanted with trying to maneuver these behemoths into and out of tight parking spaces and make U turns without backing and forthing a half dozen times. There seems to be room now for more compact designs, even if they can’t haul 2 tons of concrete pipe or tow a backhoe.
Volkswagen clearly sees an opening and plans to exploit it. One has to wonder, though, how much marketing magic is left in the Scout brand. More than half of Americans were born after the last Scout vehicle was produced by International Harvester.
The company has a similar issue with the new Volkswagen ID. Buzz, which seeks to recapture the peace and love vibe of Woodstock, Haight Ashbury, and the Age of Aquarius. Not many people who painted psychedelic murals on the sides of Volkswagen Microbuses are still around to tell their grandchildren of the joys of going braless and indulging in free love orgies.
Nostalgia only goes so far. Ultimately, it comes down to a value for money proposition. There just aren’t that many people who can afford a “lifestyle vehicle” that looks great in the driveway but doesn’t meet their daily driving needs. Volkswagen has set a high bar for Scott Keogh to clear. Here’s hoping they give him the products he needs to be successful.
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