By on July 2, 2018

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

Last March, Volkswagen confirmed that once the current-generation Beetle runs its course, there won’t be another. It was thought — and hoped, for some VW execs — that the automaker would switch the iconic model to electric drive, thus keeping the brand’s heritage alive while at the same time fulfilling its promise to unleash scores of EVs into the marketplace.

Not so, it seems. “Two or three generations [of Beetle] is enough now,” said VW R&D chief Frank Welsch in an interview with Autocar. “You can’t do it five times and have a ‘New New New Beetle.’”

Well, that was spring, and this is summer. Apparently, VW hasn’t completely ruled out the return of the people’s car. Should the model stage a reappearance, however, prepare yourself for some sacrilegious changes.

According to Autocar, Volkswagen brass are again mulling a new generation of Beetle. Perhaps they never stopped. If green-lit by the powers that be, the new model would dispense with the two-door configuration enjoyed by consumers ever since the first KdF-Wagen rolled out of Nazi Germany in 1938. The two-doors-only proposition, coupled with the fact that the Beetle is a car, hasn’t helped the model’s popularity in this crossover-fetishizing era.

Naturally, it will also be electric, but you probably expected that. Should the automaker grace us with a new Beetle, you’ll find its underpinnings to be identical to those found beneath the upcoming line of I.D. electric vehicles — a product portfolio that includes a latter-day Microbus. Besides using the MEB platform, VW might take advantage of the  electric motor’s compact size and hook one to the rear wheels, thus returning the Beetle to the drive configuration it was born with.

Newly minted Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess (formerly VW brand boss) is keen to keep models around that remind people of Volkswagens of yore. He calls them “emotional” models. But before consumers get to enjoy those warm feelings, there’s high-volume money to be made — and that means cranking out things like the I.D. (due next year) and I.D. Crozz SUV first. The reborn Microbus (called the I.D. Buzz) comes along in 2022.

“Our duty is to get the volume [ID] models under way,” said VW design boss Klaus Bischoff. “These cars have super-complicated technology and if you do too much, it’s an overload. Then we [can] move into more exotic cars and the field of emotion.”

He added, “The Beetle of today is a very attractive two-door coupé or convertible, but it is limited in the amount of cars that it can sell because it’s a niche.” By borrowing the shortest-wheelbase version of the MEB platform, Mischoff said VW should be able to produce a Beetle with classic dimensions, only now with more interior volume. Four doors are essential for maximizing the usefulness of that space.

VW redesigned the Beetle for the 2012 model year, but the upsurge in sales didn’t last long. After a post-recession U.S. sales high in 2013, it was down, down, down for the little coupe and convertible. Sales plummeted 41.6 percent, year over year, in May. Total volume over the first five months of 2018 fell 5.5 percent.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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12 Comments on “Despite Saying ‘No’ to a (New) New Beetle, Volkswagen Hasn’t Completely Closed the Door on the Idea...”

  • avatar

    Acknowledging the importance of heritage and in the same breath calling for the beetle to become a Jetta, if not another anonymous crossover. Eugh.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree. Why even call it a Beetle anymore? There is a limit to how far you can stray from the basic concept before you lose the idea altogether. See: Eclipse.

  • avatar

    I think the Beetle has about run its course. I don’t know what kind of electric platform they can use for it, but unless it has considerable cost sharing, I don’t think the potential volume will make economic sense. For the retro shopper, the Baby Boomers have pretty much moved to easier entry/exit vehicles or bought their last car.

  • avatar

    The only way the Beetle could possibly continue in the USA would be if Volkswagen gave it the Crosstrek treatment. 3 inch lift from 5.7 to 8.7″ of ground clearance, AWD/DSG/TSI engine setup from the Golf Sportwagen. Three door configuration like the Veloster or old Saturn S coupe…maybe even put small rear suicide doors on both sides like a Honda Element, i.e. mitigate some of the inconvenience factor of a 2-door but keep it looking mostly like a 2-door. Call it the Beetle Baja, if the name can be bought from Subaru (assuming they still control it).

  • avatar

    As much as people bemoan the loss of manual transmissions, I am more distressed by the loss of 2 door vehicles. The transmission doesn’t affect body styling the way that door count does. So much styling opportunity is lost by the requirement that people can put kids in car seats easier.

    • 0 avatar

      While the lost of the third pedal is sad at least the newer auto transmissions are better (more gears, faster shifts, etc). But why kill everything with 2 doors? I don’t have any kids but I’ve owned 2 and 4 door vehicles for various reasons. Sometimes you need extra space or accessibility, but often times you don’t. Who on earth thinks a 4 door Beetle is a good idea? The whole concept of the Beetle was to be small and simple. Granted simple these days is impossible but why can’t we have a few small cars left?

  • avatar

    The fact that VWs primary EV isn’t using the Beetle name and silhouette is mind blowing, why would they make a new nameplate and design with no recognition when this would be the ultimate chance to return the Beetle to it’s People’s Car roots. 2 door, 4 door, crossover version, all EVs. All called the Beetle, all with the dome roof.

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps because they don’t want to give their volume EV a domed roof in all its iterations?

      Also how would going to an EV return the Beetle to its People Car roots? The EVs won’t be the cheapest VWs available.

  • avatar

    Design flexibility the electric platform allows, rear wheel drive purity, VW wheel build a next generation Beetle.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Next-gen Beetle should have a normally-aspirated version of the Boxster’s 2.0 flat four hung behind the back axle, available in RWD and AWD configurations. Bring back the Sun Bug, Jeans Beetle, and a couple of other special editions. How cool would that be?

    It wouldn’t sell, of course…but how cool would that be???

  • avatar

    Are they SELLING ? If so, keep making/selling them. If not, so be it.
    What I( would like to see here is the CALIFORNIA van.

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