By on November 10, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

We’ve been talking about the next Volkswagen Beetle — well, a few of us have — ever since the restyled two-door dropped the “New” moniker and flatted out its roofline a tad.

While the 2012 reshaping gave the model a new lease on life, it also seemed to be the plucky coupe’s end point, stylistically speaking. Where do you take a model from there, without erasing the retro charm that wooed buyers in the late 1990s? Maybe it was time for the model to die. Not surprisingly, reports arose last year claiming the Beetle had a date with the chopping block.

And yet, that rumor never really went anywhere. The model remains, its official future still in limbo. However, it seems Volkswagen brass is coming around to the idea that the Beetle deserves a permanent place in the company’s lineup, though not in the layout we’ve grown accustomed to.

Any new New Beetle will be rear-wheel drive, says VW chairman Herbert Diess.

As reported by Autocar, it seems the efforts of VW design head (and Beetle aficionado) Klaus Bischof might be paying off. Diess said a proposal for a next-generation Beetle will soon go before the company’s board, part of the planning process for the company’s future vehicles.

This won’t come as a shock, given the industry’s direction: the Beetle, if it soldiers on, will not do so with an on-board gas tank.

“If we wanted to do a Beetle, electrically it would be much better than today’s model, much closer to history, because it could be rear-wheel drive,” Diess said. The proposed electric Beetle would share its versatile MEB platform underpinnings with a number of electric vehicles, including the reborn Microbus.

Picture it — a Beetle and Microbus, back together again, only now with zero tailpipe emissions. (Hubert Humphrey bumper stickers not included.)

Given that VW has already nailed down what it wants from its first crop of new EVs, any new Beetle would come after a flurry of launches scheduled for the 2020-2022 time frame. “The next decision on electric cars will be what kind of emotional concepts we need,” Diess explained.

While there’s surely powertrain advancements in store for that far-away time, a direct carryover of the company’s planned electric propulsion systems could put roughly 200 horsepower and gobs of  torque to the Beetle’s rear wheels. Or, if VW felt compelled, it could go dual-motor/all-wheel drive. Call that vision the EcoDune, if you will.

As Diess said, “You can do derivatives efficiently. We have a very flexible platform.”

Beetle sales in the U.S. last year dropped to a low not seen since the slow model changeover in 2011, with only 15,667 units sold. That’s less than one-fifth the volume seen in its best year, 1999, when 83,434 Americans took home a reborn Love Bug.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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23 Comments on “Any New Beetle Will Be Rear-wheel-drive, Says Volkswagen Chairman...”


  • avatar
    statikboy

    Why?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Make it rear engined again too so I can derisively call it an: “A$$ engined Na$i-sled.”

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    Still not the same thing though.. It’s not like you’ll patch a leaking fuel hose with pantyhose (anecdote from Mexico) or anything..

    I think maybe the first company to come up with a modular battery architecture (maybe blocks the size of a normal car battery) and let the user stack them for more capacity or replace broken ones wins this game. Imagine, you’re doing a long drive for the day, and don’t need lots of luggage – rent an extra 10 battery packs and voila – 500 mile range.

    And if the battery/ECU/motors are open-sourced in some way, so a DIYer could replace them (like you can replace brake calipers now), rather than needing to wait 3 weeks at the stealer and be charged an extra $700 because they had to “reset the batteries, train the ECU and re-initialize the motors”…

    All this to say: part of the legend of the Beetle/Microbus were its simplicity and repairability. No way no how anything in 2020 will have any of that..

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Sounds good, until you discover that the extra range you’re planning to rent weighs 1200 lbs and requires a 1-ton truck suspension underneath it.

      This is one reason why EVs have fixed battery sizes.

    • 0 avatar
      pinkslip

      I’d much rather spend 20-30 minutes at a quick-charger rest stop every 200-300 miles than deal with renting/loading/carrying/returning extra batteries.

      As for simplicity and ease of repairs: one of the best parts of an EV is the motor’s limited moving parts and simple transmission designs. Batteries are also becoming more dependable for longer life cycles, with more and more sources for rebuilds entering the market each year.

  • avatar
    jeanbaptiste

    Styling aside, I’m down for a RWD electric VW.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Consider me skeptical of the overlap between cute compact intenders and people that know what RWD is the acronym for.

  • avatar

    I expect these rear electric motors to at least be air cooled.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    An electric Beetle would be a fantastic idea…definitely better than the electrified van.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I like both ideas. I could see a small business like a bakery or florist using the Microbus for deliveries, the stand-out styling aiding with advertising for the business.

      With Honda’s retro-themed EVs, this could be a whole new segment, and I welcome it. Maybe Ford will come out with a sexy little electric Thunderbird two seater with awesome acceleration and handling.

      • 0 avatar
        Mr.Radar

        I think what it comes down to is that modern ICE vehicles (with their emissions systems, turbo-chargers, and 8+-speed transmissions) are extremely difficult to package while also meeting fuel economy (aerodynamic) and safety standards. With EVs the packaging is much more flexible (they have no emissions control or even exhaust, the motors are smaller, the transmission is almost nonexistant, and they require a smaller cooling system) so car designers can finally flex their long-constrained muscles.

  • avatar
    mrentropy

    Ah, well. Now I won’t be able to tell people that VW put the body on backwards.

  • avatar

    Only reason I clicked this was to see the RWD detail, because VW has no RWD platforms to use. Making a new one for a crappy Beetle would be bad.

    But it’s going to be electric, so now I don’t care.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I’m more than ok with a new Beetle electric. It could be more space efficient than previous generations with a hatch and a real frunk.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Rear wheel drive sounds good. Electric motors and batteries, not so good. Electricity is too expensive, and there’s no way to upgrade by dropping a LS V8 into it. At least with the old flat four, you could make an ill-fated attempt to swap in a Porsche motor. Batteries and electric motors means no more ill-fated attempts – what’s the use of even owning a car if you can’t jury-rig it to be something it’s not?

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