After getting incredibly excited to hear Volkswagen Chairman Herbert Diess confirm production of an all new electric Microbus, I decided to ask around at the Tiguan drive event this week—only to be told that VW won’t confirm or discuss it now. That’s pretty standard, if just a bit odd considering the chairman’s recent comments, and here’s why it’s likely VW will make a new Microbus anyway.
While I couldn’t get anything out of the VW team at the Tiguan event, who seemed like they had already been prepared to avoid discussing the chairman’s comments anyway, there are still a few good reasons for VW to go ahead and put an electric Microbus into production.
The first big point is that VW sort of has to—at least, as part of the Department of Justice settlement deal they made with the U.S. government over the dieselgate scandal, they’re required to essentially build a shit ton of electric vehicles now.
VW is taking a smart approach to this by developing a modular electric platform that they can build a new range of electric vehicles off of. The great thing about a shared platform is that the more-boring, better-selling bread and butter models reduce the cost of the platform and development of lower-volume, more fun vehicles built on the same platform. Something like an electric Microbus. There’s been talk in the past that previous Microbus concepts never made it to production because there simply wasn’t a suitable existing platform to support it, and now there is.
As Volkswagen goes through this quasi-reinvention—an opportunity I’m sure the marketing department will want to take full advantage of—it’s going to want to develop a new brand image, and it knows that the best approach for reaching consumers is through its product.
VW’s upcoming issue on that front, however, is that the Beetle is on its last legs and there doesn’t seem to be any plan to introduce a new model anytime soon, so the brand is losing its cultural halo car. Suddenly there’s a nice, nostalgic hole in the lineup that a new Microbus could easily slip into.
Finally, as Volkswagen and the rest of the industry wades its way into the electric market, there’s the obvious elephant in the room that is Tesla, who has now apparently committed itself to producing its own electric minibus, possibly based on the Model X platform. Do we have ourselves a race, now?
So to make the case, if Volkswagen were serious about a new Microbus (like, you know, the chairman telling an outlet that it’s happening), then VW now has a platform to build it on, a government mandate sort of requiring them to anyway, some Silicon Valley asshole up their ass about it, and a strong marketing case for introducing a new, electric nostalgia-trip retro replacement for the outgoing Beetle that actually offers some real-world capability as a people-mover.
So now we just need to patiently hope they don’t cancel anything... for the fifth time.