Is It Time for a New VW Bulli Microbus?
Volkswagen is not a budged brand, not by a long shot. They do, however, make a few relatively affordable cars, like the Gol, the Jetta to some extent and more recently the Up!.
Things were different right after the war though. Back when the Beetle came out, it was more of a way to get the German economy off the ground and to offer cheap transportation for post-war Europe. It was a case of "to hell with the flaws, we need anything with wheels". The Beetle and the Microbus that came after it did, however, leave lots of retro car fans who like to play with screwdrivers and open up the cylinders of their boxer engines every weekend. They're not exactly the "In" Crowd, but VW in their marketing wisdom did find a way to grind the bones of the old Beetle into dust and sprinkle them on a Golf body to make the New Beetle.
A front-wheel drive Beetle based on the Golf turned out to be a great idea. But the hipster owners are back to their usual shenanigans, like that couple who spent the whole winter knitting their car a gigantic sweater.
For years now, these same folks, who like to recycle everything and grow their own salads have also been demanding something called a "Bus".
That idea came and went. In 2010, the first rumors came out that VW was working on a new six-seat MPV, the long lost son of the Microbus. At the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, the Bulli Concept came out and people were positively ecstatic. Vdab wasn't coy about wanting to put it into production in Puebla, Mexico as soon as 2014. Since that's clearly no longer going to happen, I want to find out why and how we can fix that.
What's the Bulli Concept, really? Well, the old T1 Bus was… you know… a real bus. But the one-off in Geneva wasn't that at all. The Germans themselves said the Bulli concept could “establish a new, fifth brand of people carrier” alongside its Caddy, Touran, Sharan, and Caravelle lines. Right there is your biggest problem. European MPVs are a real snooze-fest… except the C4 Picasso. A Bus is not exactly a barrel of laughs either, but you can stick a bunch of stuff in it and go camping, surfing, hiking and a lot of other dirty activities.
You can buy a real camper bus from VW right now, and it's based on the real successor of the T1, the T5, not some crazy concept car. As I see it, this means that what Vdub's marketing folks really want to do is sell a small, posh MPV to people who bought MINIs.
I'm sure you retro guys hate that idea, but I love it because Volkswagen desperately needs some sort of new B-segment car, either an MPV or a crossover MPV. B-segment cars are basically the coolest thing on the market and with retro styling on their side, the Germans could demand a big premium. A car that can carry maybe 5 or 6 people and looks as good as a Beetle, that's going to sell well if you ask me.
That's never going to work in the US though. American families want lots more space for themselves and the gear they want to bring. The biggest sedan Ford sells in Europe is only called a mid-size on the other side of the ocean. That, the overlap with other VWs, the lack of a clear marketing direction and especially the fact that crossovers have taken over means that, in my opinion, the Bulli's time is long gone.