I heard about Volkswagen discussing the possibility of a new, electric, MEB-archicture Kübelwagen or Thing a couple days ago, but was hesitant to write about it because, well, I’m not sure if it’s just idle talk or if there’s some grain of seriousness behind it. I guess it doesn’t really matter, because it’s interesting enough it’s even being mentioned.
The discussion comes from statements given by Volkswagen brand-honcho Herbert Diess to Car and Driver:
“MEB is flexible—rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive—and we have so many emotional concepts. I don’t know if you remember the Kübelwagen. This Thing is a nice car. Then there are all the buggies, the kit cars. We have the bus. We have the various derivatives of the bus. We have so many exciting concepts in our history that we don’t have to do a Beetle.”
So, before we get too Thing-crazy, let’s look at what he’s really saying here—that their new MEB electric, modular platform is really flexible, and that VW has a crapton of interesting history to pick through to potentially resurrect, and since MEB is all-wheel drive capable, a new Thing could be a possibility.
Referring to the car as a Kübelwagen is sort of a strange choice, since that car was built only for Germany’s WWII use, which, as you may guess, doesn’t exactly have the best PR optics. The modernized version of the Kübelwagen (well, late ‘60s, early ‘70s modern), the Thing, has a much friendlier reputation in America, and, if this happened, is the far likely candidate for a name revival.
Diess also hints at MEB taking on sort of the role that the original VW Beetle chassis had—as a platform for a wide variety of kit bodies, dune buggies, and so on. I’d personally love to see a rebirth of a flexible platform like that, fostering a the creative kit car explosion cheap old VW pans once made possible.
Also interesting is what he had to say about a possible next Beetle and the upcoming reborn bus:
“We could [build an electric Beetle], because it is rear-wheel drive, no grille. If we wanted to do a Beetle electrically, it would be much better than the current car. Much closer to the history of the Beetle. [But] I think the Microbus is a much better emotional concept for the brand than the Beetle. If you go to California, everybody would say it’s the bus.”
This is all very interesting, and an unusual amount of candor about the future from an auto company executive.
I’m not sure if I feel like this means a new Thing, but the exciting thing is that it could. I suspect that a lot of this has to do with how flexible the MEB platform proves to be once in production.
I’m going to be cautiously hopeful about a re-born, electric VW Thing. I’ll know how hopeful I’ll let myself be once we see what happens with the new Microbus.