With the world’s established automakers facing increased competition from ascendant Korean car brands, and with even more competition from Chinese automakers just over the horizon, the key to continued success is leveraging every single advantage that’s been accumulated in the past. Traditionally those advantages have been technical, whether in engine technology, suspension set-up know-how, or long-established relationships with suppliers. But as technical advantages fade, brands are having to cash in on their other, less tangible assets… including heritage.
Few brands have the kind of mass-appeal heritage assets that VW has, as witnessed by the profound success of the previous-gen New Beetle. But rather than limiting its advantages to a single model, VW envisions an entire range of heritage-inspired models which will leverage vast platform commonality into passion-inspiring cult cars. The next of these “cult cars,” after the new New Beetle: an electric mini-MPV based on the Bulli concept, to bebuilt in Puebla for the 2014 model-year. VW design boss Walter Da Silva tells Autocar
As a designer, I am convinced by this idea. We don’t have a space for another conventional MPV, but this one would be desirable on a different level, combining practicality with the heritage appeal.
Meanwhile, VW isn’t the only brand with this idea. Facing slack sales and an uncertain place in the European market, Citroen has bet big on its “anti-retro” DS line to revitalize its flagging fortunes. But if brands are increasingly leveraging their pasts to bolster their futures, why aren’t any American brands betting big on retro? After all, if anyone in the global car game can look to the past as being better than the present, isn’t it Detroit?