The Volkswagen Group kept dealers out of the loop ahead of the recent announcement of its Scout EV brand, Automotive News reported Monday.
VW announced the Scout brand May 11, confirming plans for a North American-market electric pickup truck and SUV under a separate brand structure. Scout, which revives the name of the classic International Harvester Scout, is scheduled to show prototypes in 2023 and start production in 2026.
But dealers were caught off guard by the announcement, leading some to wonder if VW was planning to adopt Tesla’s direct-sales retail model for the new brand, according to Automotive News.
VW hasn’t revealed important details, such as who will manage a standalone Scout brand or what platforms its EVs might use. But keeping Scout separate from the main VW brand could create an opening for a different retail model.
Although Polestar is an offshoot of Volvo Cars and its parent Geely, Polestar has avoided issues with Volvo’s United States dealer network by looping it in on service. The brand has been opening Polestar Spaces in lieu of traditional showrooms.
Tesla didn’t shy away from pointing out that its store model started with the Model S was developed directly from Apple Stores. It even hired Apple’s retail guru who was widely credited with that setup.
Tesla Store Los Angeles [photo: Misha Bruk / MBH Architects]
That’s been a model followed by Lucid and Rivian—the latter a potential competitor to Scout’s rugged EVs. None of these automakers have a traditional dealer network to work around, though.
Even Tesla has had to fight dealer lobby groups and state franchise laws, so moving away from the traditional franchised dealership model comes with risks. But it’s proven to be a good way to showcase new EVs, while giving customers an alternative to the often-stressful experience of car buying at a dealership.