Volkswagen of America Boss Aims for EV ‘Sweet Spot’
Seen in spy photos, in conceptual drawings, and as a prototype, the upcoming Volkswagen ID.4 crossover launches on September 23rd, with the potential to arrive in the greenest U.S. states by year’s end. The vehicle marks the end of a half-decade journey for the automaker that began with a very expensive scandal and ended with a new direction and philosophy.
Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen of America, knows that green doesn’t sell on virtue alone. His aim is to position the ID.4 as a competitor to popular compact crossovers that just happens to be electric.
Speaking to Automotive News, Keogh described how the automaker is dealing with the aftermath of its North American plant shutdowns. Assembly plants in Puebla, Mexico and Chattanooga, Tennessee went idle for 11 and 8 weeks, respectively, leading to inventory shortages that persist to this day. For the brand’s big-margin Atlas, the timing of the pandemic left the company with few vehicles in reserve when society reopened.
“We’re sitting in, I would say, high 40s, low 50s day supply,” Keogh said, adding, “We are very very thin on [the Atlas].”
Keogh claims Chattanooga is now at “110 percent utilization,” with Puebla going “full-bore.”
As for the ID.4, which will see North American assembly move to Tennessee a year and a half after production starts in Germany, Keogh says he views electric propulsion as a “consumer proposition, rather than a legislative/political proposition.”
“Frankly, it’s one of the most strategically important cars we have,” he said of the ID.4. “We want to put a car right into that sweet spot of price, sweet spot of packaging, sweet spot of tech, of everything, so when you’re looking at this segment, it’s not, ‘Oh, yeah, I think I’ll buy this electric car over there.’ No, it’s right into the mainstream.”
Explaining that compact crossovers boast an average transaction price in the $33k-34k range, VW’s American boss said that, with federal and state tax incentives factored in, the ID.4’s price can mirror that of its rivals. “Potentially, even a little bit lower than that,” he said. “So will we hit a $29k? I don’t see it. Will we hit a low 30s? I think we will, and I think that’s a hell of a place to be with this car and this technology.”
The ID.4 can be had in an all-wheel drive/twin-motor configuration, and early test drives show the ID.4 is capable of balancing power, range, and handling. Maximum range is estimated at 300 miles.
When asked about the diesel emissions scandal that broke five years ago this month, Keogh said the result of the PR and economic damage was the arrival of truckloads of humility at VW’s door. Whereas before VW was known for being “dramatically hierarchical,” the automaker now prides itself on its culture of transparency — a workplace where, Keogh claims, concerns and information now flow up and down the food chain.
“Honestly, we’re a company that wants to take advantage of being given a second chance,” he said.
“I think there’s not many times in life where you’re given a second chance. I think we fought and earned and deserve our second chance, but we want to take maximum advantage of it. And by taking maximum advantage of it, we want electrification to happen. We want zero CO2 in 2050 to happen. We want to return to being a loved company, which we always have been in America. We don’t want to be the Darth Vader, we want to be the absolute loved and admired company. Are we there yet? No. Are we working our way there, and have we earned our seat at the table? I think we have, but it’s been a very, very challenging five years, obviously.”