Get ready for some well-engineered EVs.
We were at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the reveal of the new Atlas Cross Sport where we had a chance to sit down with the CEO of Volkswagen Group North America, Scott Keogh.
When asked if VW would consider adding a plug-in hybrid system to the Atlas or the new Atlas Cross Sport, Keogh said, "Plug-in is something we won't dismiss. We don't see it exactly right now in our product plans, but of course, we are holding the conversation to the next generation Atlas and what we do there. We do have that possibility in our global toolbox and we are reading the market."
It seemed like Keogh agreed with the idea of building a hybrid Atlas rather than a fully electric model. "In that type of vehicle, to make it pure BEV with that type of size would just add more cost and more weight," Keogh added. "I think it's a segment that could work well and we have some ideas."
While Keogh is interested in the idea of a hybrid or PHEV Atlas, his main focus is on fully electric vehicles. VW has been watching this market closely and the company believes it has keyed in on a few mistakes other automakers have made with their EV releases.
"I think, first and foremost, you have to be all-in. And by all-in, I mean marketing, advertising, dealerships across the country, make the thing national, and go 100%," Keogh explained. "Because if your message to the consumer is, 'we're kind of putting our toe in the water. Let's see what happens here.' The reaction from consumers will be, 'they're kind of putting their toe in the water. I'll do the same.'"
Keogh also stressed how VW is aiming to make electric cars feel more mainstream for consumers. "If you look at it seven or eight years ago, to jump to an electric vehicle would literally be a big jump," he said. "No one in my family's ever had one. I don't know where the [charging] network is. How much? And what we're trying to do, honestly, is to make that thing literally a step."
"It's got the size and the usability that they're used to, a dealer network that they are used to, and a digital system of ordering and handling to make it as easy as possible," he continued. "We're also looking at giving you opportunities where if you need an internal combustion engine car, you'll have access to that." And if the strong support network doesn't convince you to switch to an electric car, VW has some added value up its sleeve.
"For us as Volkswagen, we hit a magical gold mine in the '60s and '70s when we launched a very unique car at a great price point and we basically mobilized the population of America. I clearly feel, without a doubt, Volkswagen has an opportunity to have a very unique and cool car at a very great price point that is going to bring that same level of reach and exposure except in an electric car. You don't get a lot of chances in your career to get to do that and I think it's cool as hell," he exclaimed.