Home / History/Torchtopian / Volkswagen Is Bringing Back The ‘Scout’ As An Electric Off-Roader; Here’s How A Diesel Scandal Helped The Company Get Rights To The Legendary International Harvester Nameplate

Volkswagen Is Bringing Back The ‘Scout’ As An Electric Off-Roader; Here’s How A Diesel Scandal Helped The Company Get Rights To The Legendary International Harvester Nameplate

Scout Sketches 1

I must admit, massive amounts of environmental damage potentially resurrecting the International Harvester Scout was not on my bingo card for 2022, but hey. Here’s the story of how we got to this point, and it’s a massive tale of corporate malfeasance, financial restructuring and dumb diesel emissions decisions. Oh, and I’m not talking about Volkswagen’s dieselgate scandal.

Let’s back up a couple decades and look at what on earth an International Scout is. International Harvester formed in 1902 with the merger of McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, Deering Harvester Company, and a few smaller equipment companies. Initially focusing on agricultural equipment from tractors to stationary engines. International Harvester quickly figured out that farmers needed trucks for taking pigs to market, so the Model A Auto Wagon was born in 1907. That’s right, International Harvester was making light-duty trucks before the Model T even came to market. After a few decades of success in the light truck market, International Harvester decided that American consumers needed a rugged four-wheel-drive vehicle that wasn’t nearly as crude as a Jeep. In 1961, the Scout 80 was released after just 24 months of development, quickly making the Jeep CJ-3B look a bit agrarian. After initial success, the upgraded Scout 800 was launched in 1965, followed by a series of improved models which culminated in the 1971 to 1980 Scout II.

Ihc Scout 1
Photo credit: Matthias v.d. Elbe – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27853250

But why did Scout production end in 1980? While the Scout had an excellent reputation in off-road racing, finishing first among 4×4 production vehicles in the 1977 Baja 1000, International Harvester was in really bad financial shape and had to abandon passenger vehicle production to focus on commercial vehicles. Well, business focusing could only take the firm so far and International Harvester ended up selling off its construction division to Dresser Industries in 1982 and its farm equipment division to Case Corporation in 1984. The trouble with International Harvester selling its equipment division is that the equipment division held the rights to the brand name and logo. Oops. No matter, International Harvester rebranded to Navistar International in 1986 and production of commercial vehicles continued.

While Navistar International was pretty good at building trucks and school buses, its engine-building skills were a bit of a mixed bag. Perhaps you’ve heard of Ford’s infamous six-liter Powerstroke diesel V8 that would blow head gaskets, clog exhaust gas recirculation system coolers, grenade turbochargers and eat oil pumps? Navistar International built those motors. Ultimately, Navistar International’s inept engine building would be its undoing.

In 2000, the EPA started cooking up stricter emissions standards for heavy-duty diesel vehicles that would take partial effect in 2007 and full effect in 2010. With lower targets for nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) looming, Navistar International had three options: install selective catalytic reduction or urea injection on their diesel engines, engineer advanced exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) systems or use nitrogen oxide absorbers. Navistar International’s then-CEO Dan Ustain scoffed at the notion of truckers fiddling about with urea fluid at truck stops and barged full-steam ahead toward advanced EGR systems. Some $700 million was funneled into EGR development, seemingly on-track with other OEMs like Cummins.

2008 07 24 International Truck Docked At Duke Hospital South 2
Photo credit: Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4520299

Dubbed MaxxForce, Navistar International’s updated line of engines featured variable geometry turbochargers, closed-crankcase ventilation and cooled exhaust gas recirculation, all technologies aimed at increasing power and cutting emissions. These new engines met 2007 emissions requirements just fine, keeping operating costs low for truckers while delivering adequate performance. At the same time, Navistar International was feeling smug due to trucker backlash over urea injection and reports of poor reliability of non-EGR emissions systems.

In 2007, competitor Caterpillar launched its ACERT line of engines featuring diesel particulate filters and aftertreatments, and these engines were disastrous. According to trucking website Overdrive Online, several class-action lawsuits were filed against Caterpillar, all of which alleged poor reliability and performance from ACERT engines. As a result, Caterpillar announced in Jun 2008 that it would end production of heavy-duty highway-legal diesel engines in 2010. Between Caterpillar’s emissions system nightmare and Cummins’ resolution to stick with EGR, everything was looking good for Navistar International. Right up until it didn’t.

Navistar International’s EGR-reliant MaxxForce engines didn’t cut emissions nearly enough to meet the EPA’s 2010 standards without severe compromises. Not only is urea injection significantly more effective at cutting NOx emissions than EGR, the EPA set a NOx standard of 0.2 grams per brake horsepower. An engine with urea injection would therefore be permitted a higher output than an engine relying on EGR. Another issue was fuel economy. While urea injection can be a hassle, good implementation of urea injection has a dramatic effect on emissions without hugely impacting performance. In contrast, heavy EGR does affect performance. Exhaust gases have already completed combustion, and circulating those gases back to the intake reduced the amount of oxygen in each cylinder, thus reducing the amount of fuel needed to achieve a good mixture and significantly reducing power.

Cummins Isx15 Epa 2010
Photo credit: Cummins

Cummins realized this and announced a strategic shift to urea injection in August 2008. If anyone could have figured out EGR, it would’ve been Cummins. They’re the 800 pound gorilla of diesel engine manufacturers with a legacy of absolutely untouchable engineering. Go on Craigslist and look at what second-generation Dodge Rams with Cummins diesel engines are trading for. I’ll give you precisely 17 minutes to pop your eyeballs back in their sockets. Not only did Cummins start building engines with urea injection, they stopped building EGR-reliant engines altogether. You know how the nanosecond when you realized you messed something up in an irreparable manner seems to last forever? That’s where Navistar International was in 2008.

So what did Navistar International do? Hastily engineer engines with urea injection? Nope, the company doubled-down on EGR, a truly stupid move that would most certainly bite everyone involved in the ass. Navistar International decided to be flagrantly non-compliant, instead relying on amassed compliance credits to pay for fines, as reported by Transport Topics. In addition, Navistar International attempted to willfully deceive the EPA by claiming some engines were made in 2009 by using start-of-assembly dates instead of dates engines were actually assembled. Needless to say, the EPA was not pleased.

The EPA started coming down on Navistar with a $1,919 fine per non-compliant engine, which increased to $3,744 per engine in 2012. The EPA also launched a $300 million lawsuit against Navistar International in 2015, which was settled for a $52 million civil penalty, forfeit of Navistar International’s existing NOx credits, and a buyback program designed to prevent 10,000 tons of future NOx emissions. A large bill for an ailing company, although EPA wasn’t the only government agency coming down on Navistar International. In 2016, the SEC fined Navistar International to the tune of $7.5 million for misleading investors. All of these penalties came in the midst of immense consolidation which saw everything from a Reuters-reported poison pill strategy to prevent a hostile takeover by offering discounted stock to existing investors, to an NBC-reported layoff of 900 employees in Garland. TX., to a voluntary separation package deal reported by UPI and multiple other rounds of layoffs. Executives pulled their golden parachute cords left and right, from CEO Dan Ustian to vice president of product development Ramin Younessi. Things were uglier than a rotten hog carcass, and that’s before we even get into other litigation.

Navistar International Terrastar
Photo credit: Exp691 – Taken during Evergreen Extension constructionPreviously published: https://www.flickr.com/photos/little-transitboy/42337957021/in/photolist-oAQKYg-27vg6Ae, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69435342

See, Navistar International’s advanced EGR systems didn’t just fail to meet EPA emissions standards, they failed to have any semblance of reliability. The MaxxForce engines are known pieces of shit, with failures that run the gamut from börked turbochargers to EGR cooler failures. Customers were angry, and rightly so. At least 14 class-action lawsuits were launched against Navistar International, one of which was approved for a $135 million settlement package in 2020, as reported by Transport Topics. Individual lawsuits were also launched, really inflicting extra pain on a company that truly deserves it. As for the fate of the MaxxForce engines? They were discontinued in favor of Cummins power units with urea injection. Funny, isn’t it?

With Navistar International bleeding cash, the company needed a savior. Who better than another company with its own history of awful diesel emissions decisions? Enter Volkswagen, or Volkswagen’s Traton SE commercial arm to be more specific. In 2017, the heavy vehicles arm of Volkswagen Group consisting of truck makers MAN, Scania, and Volkswagen Caminhões e Õnibus took a 16.6 percent stake in Navistar International before buying out all outstanding shares. In 2021, Navistar International announced through a press release that the company is now part of Traton SE, effectively passing the Scout name and legacy on to Volkswagen.

If I’m being honest, I’m pretty stoked on the prospects of a reborn Scout making it to market. Given how off-road-focused SUVs are typically ponderous and inefficient, an electric off-roader sounds like a ton of fun. A new Scout would also give Volkswagen a boost in America without diluting the Volkswagen brand. Sure, a new Iltis would be cool, but that nameplate has absolutely zero meaning to the general population. Volkswagen CFO Arno Antlitz added clarity to the official re-launch of the Scout brand official, quoted in a press release as saying “The company we establish this year will be a separate unit and brand within the Volkswagen Group to be managed independently.” Right on. If everything goes according to plan, expect to see a new Scout SUV and pickup truck in 2026.

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47 Responses

    1. Actually, it was the Ford electronics (tune) that was flawed. I knew guys that went back for reflash after reflash with no good results ever.
      The VT365 carried on in IH medium duty trucks until 2016, and did so without much trouble at all.

      1. The vt365 was complete garbage. UPS sued IHC and won a large settlement over this engine. Normally ups keeps delivery vehicles 20 years. Vt365 powered vans were scrapped starting at 10. I had 40 of these fine machines in my building and man did I make a lot of money, swapping engines, replacing injectors, turbos, oil cooler leaks etc. And wiring problems, my god they were horrible, I actually kept both engine wiring harnesses in my parts room. And the V6 version was even worse. I think it was called a VT275?

  1. While the VW group bought Navistar in 2021, ‘Scout’ has been a trim level on various Škoda models since the 2000s, and the Octavia Scout apparently has been marketed as the ‘Škoda Scout’ in Spain.

    It seems like VW may have owned the name already, but I wonder how that came to be.

    1. I think that Scout certainly was the branding that the octavia scout had in the past within the Skoda lineup here in Spain, but in the current offerings it´s again the octavia scout, just another trim

  2. Goddamn foreign cars!

    Will the Scout make it outside the US, I wonder? The brand would be almost unheard of in Europe, so I’m thinking this might be a North America-only deal. It’s not unheard of for VW to produce NA exclusive models, but I don’t recall them ever doing it with an entire brand.

  3. IH was a name that meant something in our household growing up since we had two of their small old school cub tractors (gas) and my dad loved them. He also wanted a Scout but sadly never bought one. Sad too to read what happened to the company, very informative, but VW taking this on, I don’t know.

    Is it going to be the same old thing of a company taking a beloved old vehicle name and style and just making something that vaguely resembles it in shape and style? That would be a shame, and I hope they don’t, as this should be, just as mentioned in the article, a step to something better than a Jeep, of any type, as that would create some real competition.

    1. Yes. It will be a vehicle that vaguely carries forward a few styling cues from the beloved old Scout. What did you expect?

      Being better than a Jeep is not a high bar to clear. The only thing that’s even good with a Jeep is off-road dynamics.

  4. This EV Scout could be really interesting if it actually happens and they do it right. I’ve been thinking that as long as you can properly waterproof everything, a small EV off-roader would be a blast. Sure, having to charge would probably limit you to shorter off-road adventures but that instant torque would be great for slow speed crawling and you can theoretically drive through as deep of water as you want since you don’t need to worry about an engine sucking up water

  5. That got surprisingly interesting. I never found the time to learn which pollution reduction method was best. This helps a lot!

    A minor point: The International tractor divison wasn’t sold to Case.They were both bought by Tenneco then merged.MUCH different!
    You’d think i’d let it go after 40 years but here we are ????

  6. Great writeup. Even more coincidental, the only Navistar engine in production now, the A26, has been based off of an MAN design since 2007. The MaxxForce 11 and 13 “Big Bore” engines were designs bought from MAN and then localized for suppliers and assembly.

  7. Good read! I found a rust free (barn stored out west) 1969 Scou1t 800 a while ago. Bought it and had no tools or time to fix it up. Sold it and should have restored it. It would have sold for a small fortune these days.
    Oh well. My kids and I did get to sit in it and make vroom-vroom noises.

  8. A few comments from a guy that was around back in the day…

    – The build quality of IH light and medium duty products was horrific. DT would love their propensity to rust. Some models had zero rustproofing. Body integrity was non existent. . Drive trains were reasonable considering the competition.

    Note that the 7.3 Powerstroke is loved and worshipped. A great engine.

    And any discussion where IH products are not referred to as “ Binders” should be completely dismissed…

  9. I got hung up on the urea injection and truckers fiddling about with urea fluid at truck stops. Was this a pee joke, I thought? No, it was not. Urea injection is apparently a real thing. Should there have been a pee joke in there? Most definitely.

    1. Innovation alert! All new Freightliners to have a built in toilet with urine to urea processing for just this purpose of reducing emissions. More pee, less nox.

      Gatorade might have something to say though with a loss of sales at Pilot truck stops nationwide.

  10. My friend had a Scout II. He used to say “Drives like a tractor”.

    Not usually a desirable trait for a car. Maybe they will make the next batch a bit more palatable for the Mall Parking Lot Kings/Queens so they’ll be able to sell more than a few scores of them.

    1. I mean it was a light duty truck designed in the late 60s and built in the 70s, every pickup, SUV and van drove like a tractor, or more accurately like a truck up until you started getting into the 90s

    2. >>My friend had a Scout II. He used to say “Drives like a tractor”.

      >>Not usually a desirable trait for a car.

      But ……. If you’d done any research, you’d know that was literally IH’s motto for the Scout. “Anything less is just a car”.

      Full disclaimer — Own a Scout 80 and also a (daily driver) Scout 800A. Those vehicles get more attention than any other vehicle I’ve owned, including Trans Am’s, Corvette’s and BMW. If I don’t get a couple of “thumbs up” or approving horn toots every time I take one out, I’ve done something seriously wrong. VW’s move can go either way. Fingers crossed they don’t screw it up.

  11. Quick clarification on Heavy Duty diesel emissions:
    There are two categories that are the primary targets of the regulators and engine manufacturers: Particulate Matter (PM) and NOx.

    EGR started appearing on HD diesel engines in the 2002 timeframe (two years earlier than the standard originally called for, 2004, due to a Consent Decree). Due to that accelerated release, there were a lot of issues with the early EGR engines.

    In 2007, the standards for both NOx and PM were reduced. Maximum allowable PM on the certification cycles decreased from 0.10 g/bhp-hr to 0.01 g/bhp-hr. NOx was allowed to be reduced on a phase-in schedule. The 2004 limit was 2.4 g/bhp-hr of Hydrocarbon + NOx, or 2.5 g/bhp-hr of non-methane hydrocarbons plus NOx with a NMHC limit of 0.5 g/bhp, which yielded a effective limit of 2 g/bhp-hr of NOx. In 2007, most manufacturers certified their engines to around 1.2 g/bhp-hr NOx, according to dieselnet.com. That 90% reduction in PM drove all manufacturers to use DPFs, including Navistar. The 50% reduction in NOx for the 2007-2009 timeframe was largely met with increased EGR. Prior to 2007, driving EGR required artificially restricting the exhaust so that your exhaust manifold pressures were higher than intake manifold pressures or implementing an EGR pump of some sort. The addition of of Diesel Oxidation Catalysts (DOCs) and Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) created higher exhaust back pressure, which eliminated the need for a separate mechanism to drive EGR. It also allowed made higher EGR rates possible.

    In 2010, all engines were required to meet 0.01 g/bhp-hr PM and 0.20 g/bhp-hr NOx. All engines on the market were using EGR as a method to help control engine-out NOx, but many also used SCR as noted in the article to achieve their final tailpipe number. Navistar simply tried to use more, targeting EGR percentages above 50% in some cases. The consequences of this are noted in the article.

    Incidentally, requiring catalysts behind the engine with the attendant rise in backpressure changed several base assumptions for engine design and calibration. Now that the engine delta pressure was required, EGR became very cheap from an efficiency perspective. As an example, cooling and reducing the oxygen in the intake charge with EGR allowed timing to be advanced for the same peak firing pressure, improving efficiency. When emissions equipment is removed from these engines, it can create reliability issues. Blocking the EGR path will increase the mass flow through the turbo (for a fixed geometry turbo) and higher cylinder pressures. Eliminating the catalysts will remove the backpressure required to drive EGR, negatively impacting combustion efficiency and possibly moving the turbo off of its operating map. In other words, yer gonna break stuff faster.

    1. “When emissions equipment is removed from these engines, it can create reliability issues.”

      I wish all the guys who do emissions delete on their diesels and then complain about modern diesel reliability would read this.

  12. You guys are knocking it out of the park with this new site. Keep up the unbelievably fantastic work.

    Back on the Jello Picnic, I was down to reading only two writers (you can guess which). This team y’all have put together over here is fantastic. More people to read cause they’re all great!

  13. Great article. IHC/Navistar has been truly hapless for over four decades now…

    As a Wikipedia photographer whose photos occasionally appear on other car websites, I appreciate the credits for the pictures, although I feel that they should/could be less obtrusive. Smaller font, lighter grey.

    As for typing ümlåüts, there is a way to copy-paste without pasting the formatting as well. Depends on the application and operating system, but CTRL+ALT+V works in Word at least.

  14. So I had to make an account just to comment on this article. This is one of the best automotive pieces I’ve read in awhile because the downfall of Navistar International hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention. The Maxxforce engines were ,in my opinion, the final nail in the coffin for them.

  15. Great article! Well written from an entertainment perspective and also very educational and well soured for the history. Nicely done.

    As for the Scout, I would totally be interested in a Bollinger built by an established manufacturer, especially if it’s a bit smaller. Take the ID.4/Buzz platform, lift it up, sell tons. Hopefully fix that infotainment system beforehand, though.

  16. The early designs look promising. Much like the F-150, take a vehicle people want and make it an EV.

    When the time comes for me to even consider an EV, there should be some good options out there.

  17. Scouts were never in the same league as a Jeep CJ or early Bronco. Not even close! They were heavy and crudely build. The early ones had a total weak suck of a 4-cylinder engine. In 1965 my CJ5 with its modified 4-cylinder engine could run circles around any Scout in the country. Later on, they installed V-8s in the Scouts, but they were heavy truck engines with no power.

    Sherman Balch did win a couple of SCORE races in his highly modified Scout. He won 2 races and I was at both of them. Big fucking deal. How many class wins at SCORE races back then did the Broncos and Jeeps win? 100s!

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