Dear Volkswagen: Stop Showing Microbus Concepts Unless You Intend To Build One – Forbes
It seems like whenever Volkswagen is going through a rough patch and/or has little in the way of genuinely compelling hardware to reveal (while admirable, we don’t find the new stretched Tiguan that premiered last week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to be particularly groundbreaking) they taunt brand loyalists with yet another latter-day “Microbus” concept.
VW has teased modern-day iterations of its iconic Type 2 van as concept models for well over a decade, with the hype becoming so compelling at one point that Mattel even built Barbie her own version of a 2002 auto show styling exercise that at the time seemed headed to production (it had a working horn!).
An all-electric reincarnation was unveiled at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, affectionately called the BUDD-e, that – unsuccessfully to our eyes – channeled the classic Microbus look through current VW styling protocols. Otherwise it was the usual distant-future project based on vaporware and unobtainium, with a claimed operating range of up to 373 miles on a charge.
This year VW rolled out yet another wannabe Microbus concept at the Detroit show that’s likewise both forward and backward looking. Saddled with the unfortunate hipster moniker I.D. Buzz, it’s an electrified people-mover that promises both standard and autonomous driving modes. At least this time around it does a nice job of capturing the classic rendition’s iconic look, particularly at the front- and rear-ends, and wraps it around three rows of configurable seats with a full range of high-tech amenities.
Battery range for the latest Type 2 concept is claimed to be a somewhat more realistic, though still far-reaching, 270 miles – by comparison, the just-introduced Chevrolet Bolt EV can go for an estimated 238 miles on a charge, while the Tesla Model S tops out at a 265-mile maximum with its available 90 kWh battery. The automaker says a 369-horsepower electric powertrain will enable the vehicle to reach 60 mph in about five seconds – which is impressive for any minivan with the the essential aerodynamics of a brick – though with a tepid top speed of just 99 mph.
As usual, there’s no word from VW brass on whether or not a reincarnated Microbus, electrified or otherwise, will ever roll off a global assembly line. That leaves Barbie’s short-lived version as the only Microbus on sale in the U.S. since 1979.
At a time when Volkswagen is left battered and bloody from its continuing “Dieselgate” woes – to the extent executives are being advised to steer clear of the U.S. for fear of being arrested over the emissions cheating scandal – taking a step back to revisit its cherished past would clearly be a welcome move. We expect a rendition of the classic Microbus would be a big seller among nostalgic Baby Boomers looking to recapture a piece of their lost youth, as well as younger buyers seeking the exaggerated allure of a bygone age. Look at the success Dodge is having – at least among enthusiasts – with its throwback Charger and Challenger Hellcat muscle car models.