Volkswagen Officially Confirms Electric Microbus Production - Who is Supposed to Care?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
volkswagen officially confirms electric microbus production who is supposed to

Volkswagen is bringing back one of America’s iconic and beloved vehicles, the microbus, as fully-electric van. Made official over the weekend, VW’s announcement indicated a production version of the horrendously named I.D. Buzz Concept would appear in North America, Europe, and China for 2022.

Showcased earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show, the vehicle is an unabashed nostalgia-machine with enough modern features to keep itself contemporary and betray some of its retro charm. But didn’t we already do this over a decade ago? Immediately after the new millennium, it seemed like most automakers had something on offer to satiate Baby Boomers’ lust for the past. The Chrysler PT Cruiser, Ford Thunderbird, Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, Plymouth Prowler, Mini Cooper, Chevrolet HHR, Chevy SSR, and even VW’s own New Beetle all arrived as part of this slightly awkward push to bring back the glory days of the those enjoying their youths in ’60s and ’70s.

The forthcoming Volkswagen van may, if you’ll excuse the terrible pun, have already missed the Microbus. While the vehicle possesses a charm that supersedes age, it might have been more welcome fifteen years ago. Boomers, who would be the most likely to purchase such a vehicle, are getting older — perhaps too old to want something like this. But maybe they’re not the market the German automaker is going for.

China’s regulatory efforts has made it the biggest market for future BEV sales and the people that live within its borders love technology-laden automobiles. Meanwhile, American drivers that opt-in on battery power tend to be younger and more affluent than your run-of-the-mill hybrid shopper.

Information on the vehicle remains limited but Volkswagen made clear that it would be “fully electric” and possess level 3 autonomy. It also said that it would arrive on the global scene after a “more conventional all-electric VW” (probably the Crozz SUV concept) using the company’s I.D. label. That seems to suggest that the automaker is aware that the Microbus won’t have the same broad appeal of the original.

That’s a shame because a flat boxed minivan seems like something the automotive market is sorely missing right now. But, being so heavy on tech and possessing a battery-only power source, the Buzz is likely to lack mainstream allure. Unfortunately, adding a fuel tank and internal combustion engine would only sully its current shape for the sake of versatility. VW said having the batteries and electric motor mounted in the vehicle’s floor will allow for a spacious cabin and permit it to keep its present form (more or less).

“After the presentations at the global motor shows in Detroit and Geneva, we received a large number of letters and emails from customers who said, ‘please build this car’,” Volkswagen CEO Dr Herbert Diess said in Pebble Beach over the weekend. VW’s Board of Management chose Pebble Beach as the location to make its announcement because, as Diess explained: “The Microbus has long been part of the California lifestyle. Now we’re bringing it back by reinventing it as an electric vehicle.”

There’s still a case to be made for a hybridized option. Even in 2022, BEVs probably won’t have reached the popularity most automakers are proposing. But how feasible cramming a gasoline engine into the final design remains to be seen. What is known, however, is that VW doesn’t want to limit the Microbus to the private sector.

“Along with a minibus version, we’ll also be offering an I.D. Buzz Cargo variant for zero-emissions delivery of goods,” said Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles CEO Dr. Eckhard Scholz. “With Level 3 autonomous capability, this is an ideal concept for an electric van, particularly for delivering packages and goods to the inner cities.”

Inner cities means lower-range, which isn’t a bad thing when you don’t have far to go but it does put the kibosh on any fantasies of a cross-country road trip — unless it included frequent stops at EV charging stations. Here’s hoping that VW can maximize the miles per charge and make the final incarnation of its retro-inspired van as practical as possible. Because, when you stop and think about it, that’s what made the old one such a winner. Still, its quirky charm and throwback appeal are mighty. Maybe that factor alone will be sufficient to lure in a swath of eclectic and nostalgic customers from Europe or North America, who are just hungry from something unique.

[Images: Volkswagen]

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  • S is for Supra S is for Supra on Aug 21, 2017

    I’ve been waiting for this for 15 years now and I’m under 50. My wife would have bought a Microbus years ago had they sold the 2003 concept version (she drives a mini). The main problem I have is it’s 5 years from now, really five years is an eternity in the auto world. By then it better have closer to 300 miles of range.

  • Oldowl Oldowl on Aug 21, 2017

    I had one of the originals. Horribly unsafe. Grossly underpowered. Highway travel in windy conditions was like tacking a sailboat. Sold it for the original price to a flower child. I miss it. Like Bob and Ray.

  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.