Is Volkswagen Ever Bringing Back The Microbus?
A handful of concepts have not been enough to convince VW to bring back the Microbusby Kirby Garlitos, on
The debut of the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Concept represented two different things for the company. The first takeaway is that the German automaker is serious about pushing its way into the electric car and autonomous driving conversations. After all, the I.D. Buzz is the second model bearing the I.D. nomenclature, a nod to Volkswagen’s intention to break into these rapidly developing markets and move as quickly as possible past the Dieselgate scandal that rocked the entire auto industry. But we’re not here to talk about any of that. We’re here to ask an equally important question: is Volkswagen ever going to bring back the Microbus?
You might have noticed that the I.D. Buzz Concept was intentionally designed to look like the Microbus of yesteryear. It’s a smart strategy considering that the van remains an icon amongst icons in its segment. The Volkswagen Microbus, otherwise known as the T2, Kombi, and Transporter, is one of the rare cars that can still tug at the nostalgic heartstrings of bell bottom-wearing, peace sign-making baby boomers while also drawing interest from retro-loving hipsters.
But as much as there appears to still be a healthy market for a modern version of the Volkswagen Microbus, it is a little surprising that the German automaker hasn’t capitalized on that sentimentality. In fact, a quick trip down memory lane reveals that since 2001, Volkswagen has made five different concept vehicles that were all inspired, in one form or another, by the Microbus. The past few years alone has given us two of these five concepts, including the Budd-E Concept and the aforementioned I.D. Buzz Concept. As for the others, the 2001 Microbus Concept was a hit when it was unveiled, as was the Bulli Concept that was unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. The closest Volkswagen actually get to bringing back the Microbus was when it introduced the T6 cargo van and used a similar two-color scheme that the Microbus made famous.
Other than that, a lot of us have been left high and dry by Volkswagen and at one point, the frustration and disappointment of getting teased with all these Microbus-inspired concepts will catch up to Volkswagen. One day, we’re not going to care about the Microbus anymore and if Volkswagen ever decides to bring it back then, I’m afraid that it’s going to be a little too late for that var to make an impression.
Hopefully, it doesn’t come down to that because the Microbus really is a quintessential Volkswagen. A modernized version of the van can still be offered in a number of different markets and have some success there. The only question is whether Volkswagen is even willing to see if it can turn that possibility into reality.
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I was in college when Volkswagen launched the Microbus Concept at the 2001 Detroit Auto Show and I still remember looking at it and wondering how hard I’d have to study to get one. But alas, the 2001 Microbus Concept never went to production and 16 years later, we’re still no closer to getting a legitimate successor to the Microbus. At this point, I’m not hoping to get one anymore and I’ve resigned myself to the idea that the only reason Volkswagen is introducing concepts inspired by the iconic van is because it connects with a lot of people from a lot of different generations.
Think about it: Volkswagen got the reaction it wanted out of the I.D. Buzz Concept, largely because it touched a nerve with us. But the real star of that concept wasn’t its design; it was the promise of future electric and autonomous driving technologies. And yet he we are, once again pining to see Volkswagen bring back the Microbus when it’s probably not going to happen.
Well played, Volkswagen. Very well, played. On that note, though, I actually wouldn’t mind seeing a production version of the I.D. Buzz Concept, even if it ends up looking completely different than its concept form. Sure, it’s not as fast as I’d like it to be (top speed is at 99 mph) nor does it have a battery range that others would want it to have (range sits at around 270 miles on a single charge).
But it does have appeal in so much as it’s a physical representation of a promise from Volkswagen to dive deep into electric and autonomous driving technology. I know such promises aren’t worth the paper they’re written on when it comes to Volkswagen these days, but at least it’s something to look forward to, even if it means not knowing if such a future is going to happen to begin with.
Read our full review on the Volkswagen Microbus here.