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Pablo Di Si: VW's new US boss wants independent e-models

Pablo Di Si has big plans for Volkswagen in North America: the market share is to be more than doubled. For this he is planning a model offensive that will give VW a specially tailored range of products there.

North America and the Volkswagen Group – this combination has not gone particularly well together in recent years. The country of pick-ups and SUVs was already considered a big problem child in Wolfsburg in Winterkorn's time: First, the model range did not match customer needs, and then the diesel scandal also started in the USA in 2015.

Under Volkswagen's last North America boss Scott Keogh, the turnaround gradually succeeded: After many years in the red, VW was finally able to post a profit in the USA in 2021, albeit a comparatively small one (200 million euros). Keogh has managed to tailor the model range better to the market, with the large SUV Atlas (see video and slideshow), which is exclusively offered and produced there, being the greatest guarantee of success. The electric SUV ID.4, which is now being built in Chattanooga instead of the US Passat, has also become well established in the region.

Keogh to Scout, Di Si will be his successor

But after about four years as President and CEO of the Volkswagen Group of America and head of the Volkswagen brand in North America, Keogh is taking on a new important task for the group in the USA and Canada: he should build up the revitalized ancient brand Scout there, to which Volkswagen holds the trademark rights. It is to conquer North America from 2026 with a pick-up in the light truck category and a large SUV; a purely electric drive is planned for both models.

Scott Keogh's previous post was taken over by Pablo Di Si on September 1st. The Argentine was previously Keogh's counterpart in South America and has managed to position the manufacturer better there than before. His strategy back then: more autonomy from the Lower Saxony group headquarters in terms of decisions and the model range. He even managed to anchor a South American VW model in Europe: the Nivus, designed, developed and built in Brazil, is on the market with us as Taigo .

Market share in 2030? "Ten percent"

The recipe for success from South America should also bear fruit in the north of the continent: In an interview with the "Handelsblatt", Pablo Di Si calls for more independence for the North American subsidiary. The ID.4 is very well received by customers. But "we need more all-electric models for North America within the next five to seven years," says the Argentine, who is pursuing ambitious goals: by 2030, VW's market share should be ten percent; in September 2022 it was just 3.5 percent.

For Di Si, more independence also means more responsibility for Volkswagen's design center in California. "And we want to produce more models locally." According to the "Handelsblatt", the Chattanooga location could be doubled to a capacity of 500,000 cars per year. For example, to build an electric counterpart of the Atlas there. "We want to open up the important SUV segments in the US market even more, and also electrically," says Pablo Di Si. In addition, an in-house battery cell production is planned in North America However, Volkswagen Group of America is not only important in order to become more independent of the Wolfsburg headquarters. They are a pure necessity if customers are to benefit from the state e-car subsidy.

Their key data are in the Inflation Reduction Act ( IRA) by US President Joe Biden - and they set strict guidelines in this regard. Against this background, importing electric cars from other regions or equipping electric models from North American production with Asian batteries would make little sense. They would probably be significantly more expensive than the products of competitors who benefit from the IRA - and therefore probably not competitive.

Conclusion

Pablo Di Si does not take on an easy task, because it is not enough just to feed the VW brand, which is bobbing in North America. In order for this to succeed, the Argentinian must at the same time tailor the model range to the tastes of local customers and integrate more electric models into it. In addition, VW is creating competition in-house with the revived US brand Scout, because there will inevitably be overlaps, at least in the large electric SUV segment. Di Si doesn't appear to be lacking in self-confidence and ambition - but it will certainly not be long before he is measured against his bold targets within the group.

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