Progress on the new VW Microbus appears to be running along as smoothly as it ever has, that is shrouded in rumour and secrecy. The VW Microbus concept first saw the light of day as far back as 2001 at the North American International Auto Show.
Excitement was ramped up a year later with the news that VW planned to actually build the Microbus starting in 2003 with as many as 80,000 units predicted by 2005. You will of course have realised that nothing actually happened sadly, with the project being cancelled in 2005. Then in 2011 the curious looking VW Bulli appeared – curious because it looks very similar to the original Microbus concept until you put people in it; then it takes on the slight feeling of what a Campervan might look like if it had shrunk in the wash.
The electric powered 5-seater Bulli concept was essentially a mini MPV and rumours that VW were serious about this lingered with a strong hint that production might commence this year as part of the VW heritage range that would include a revamped Beetle. We had heard that before of course with the Microbus.
Compare the two concept vehicles pictured here, the original Microbus concept (in the vintage blue) to my mind follows the original Campervan lines far more faithfully than the more recent Bulli (shown here in the red and white).
While rumours and dates for a potential release of such a vehicle simply won’t go away, the date gets pushed further back. The latest hints coming out of the Volkswagen camp suggest that the whole idea has been patiently shelved until the planned renewal of the current Beetle range in 2019. A perfect time to reinvigorate the idea of a VW heritage range and produce a new Microbus. It has been suggested that this relaunch, as it were, will include a Beetle coupe, a crossover and a (conventionally powered) Microbus.
The only trouble with such rumours is that each write-up on an expanded heritage range cites other articles as the source – and vice versa. It is clear that getting to the bottom of what is going on, or more accurately, likely to go on, is not so easy.
Fortunately, the latest suggestion is that the Microbus will indeed appear as a production Campervan – a larger sized vehicle than the Bulli MPV concept. What a relief. In fact, Auto Express has gone as far as to suggest that they have received insider information that details engine sizes as well. They suggest that the Microbus will draw on the same series of powertrains as the MQB platform vehicles, which currently includes Golf, Skoda Leon and Passat. In real terms then, that sounds like the Microbus will be as traditionally underpowered as it’s predecessor with a 1.0 litre, 3-cylinder engine. But with the added bonus of 4Motion all-wheel drive; something that might ease the minds of anyone that has tried to get a classic Campervan up the hill from the beach at Polzeath in Cornwall.
The new Beetle has sold better in the USA than in Europe, a part of the world that really embraced the Microbus back in the sixties and seventies, which in itself might be an answer as to why VW keep delaying on this addition to the lineup.
Although on the other side of the coin, Volkswagen can’t have failed to notice that the BMW Mini is a success story that keeps on giving in the UK and the retro-inspired Fiat has also proved a quirky success.
I feel confident that this time it will happen, but if we are to believe what we read, three and a bit years is going to be a frustrating wait.
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