Volkswagen Leans on Electric Vehicles and Nostalgia to Grow in U.S.

Probably only Americans of a certain age remember when the Volkswagen Beetle was the best-selling imported car in the United States and the hippest ride to a Grateful Dead concert was a Volkswagen Microbus.

Volkswagen is trying to tap some of that nostalgia in its latest push to regain the status and sales it enjoyed in the United States during the Beetle’s and Microbus’s heydays in the 1960s. But this time it hopes its top models will be electric.

The German carmaker is second only to Toyota globally but is a niche player in the United States. Part of its plan to revive its fortunes here is to lean on a new electric model that resembles the Microbus, the ID.Buzz, and to revive the Scout brand with a line of electric pickups and sport utility vehicles.

Last week, as giant earth movers kicked up clouds of dust, Volkswagen executives and local officials gathered near Columbia, S.C., to inaugurate the site of a factory that will build vehicles bearing the Scout badge for the first time since 1980.

Volkswagen is one of several foreign automakers that see electric cars and the upheaval they are causing as a way to challenge the dominant players in the United States. Volkswagen, which also owns Audi, Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini, is aiming to at least double its market share in the United States by the end of the decade from a meager 4 percent now.

“This market is turning electric, and everybody’s starting from scratch,” Arno Antlitz, the chief financial officer of Volkswagen, said in an interview. “This is our unique opportunity to grow.”

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