International Harvester’s forerunner to the SUV, Scout being reborn as electric vehicle brand

International Harvester is credited by some with inventing the SUV before the term ever existed with its rugged Scout vehicles, which still have a cult around the country and especially in the Springfield area with its IH history.

More than 43 years after the last Scout rolled off the IH assembly lines, the name has emerged again as its own new company, one that will produce electric vehicles in a new plant to be built in South Carolina.

“Here at Scout Motors, we’re carrying forward the heritage of one of the most iconic American vehicles in history. A vehicle dating back to 1960. One that forged the path for future generations of rugged SUVs and will do so once again,” Scout writes on its website.

>> PHOTOS: Clark County business protects legacy of IH Scout

In order to understand the situation better, here’s a quick look at the past, present and future:

Past: International Harvester — once known for its farm equipment and later its medium and heavy duty trucks — from 1961 until 1980 built the Scout and other rugged vehicles for personal use, getting out of the market before the style of vehicles exploded in popularity. The Scout was built in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and the Travelall, a truck-like station wagon, was made in Springfield.

Present: Traton, part of the Volkswagen Group, in 2021 completed its purchase of Navistar (IH changed its name to Navistar in 1986). Volkswagen in 2022 announced Scout Motors will be created to develop off-road capable electric vehicles. In March this year, Scout announced plans to build a $2 billion plant north of Columbia, S.C., to build EVs.

Future: The company plans to hire 4,000 workers and build up to 200,000 Scout EVs a year, exporting them around the world. The first vehicles could roll off the assembly line by 2026.

>> Clark County business protects legacy of the IH Scout

An Associated Press story from the announcement of the South Carolina plant said: Scout is banking on nostalgia combined with an expected boom in electric vehicles. International Harvester made gas-powered Scout vehicles in the 1960s and 1970s. Their shape and features continue to influence modern SUVs, and Scouts have had a niche fanbase of collectors ever since.

The company’s site added: “Scout is more than just a brand, it’s a legacy steeped in a culture of exploration, caretaking and hard work.”

South Carolina Commerce Secretary Harry Lightsey compared Scout Motor’s attempts to bring a brand with nostalgic ties and backing from an established automaker into the new electric vehicle industry to Japanese carmakers in the late 1980s introducing the luxury Lexus and Infiniti brands.

Scout CEO Scott Keogh said Scout wants to “act like a startup, be nimble and take advantage of this moment.”

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