Thursday, July 5, 2018

Volkswagen Hasn’t Completely Closed the Door on a New, New… New Beetle

By: Steph Willems 
Last March, Volkswagen confirmed that once the current-generation Beetle runs its course, there won’t be another. It was thought — and hoped, for some VW execs — that the automaker would switch the iconic model to electric drive, thus keeping the brand’s heritage alive while at the same time fulfilling its promise to unleash scores of EVs into the marketplace.
Not so, it seems. “Two or three generations [of Beetle] is enough now,” said VW R&D chief Frank Welsch in an interview with Autocar. “You can’t do it five times and have a ‘New New New Beetle.’”
Well, that was spring, and this is summer. Apparently, VW hasn’t completely ruled out the return of the people’s car. Should the model stage a reappearance, however, prepare yourself for some sacrilegious changes.
According to Autocar, Volkswagen brass are again mulling a new generation of Beetle. Perhaps they never stopped. If green-lit by the powers that be, the new model would dispense with the two-door configuration enjoyed by consumers ever since the first KdF-Wagen rolled out of Nazi Germany in 1938. The two-doors-only proposition, coupled with the fact that the Beetle is a car, hasn’t helped the model’s popularity in this crossover-fetishizing era.
Naturally, it will also be electric, but you probably expected that. Should the automaker grace us with a new Beetle, you’ll find its underpinnings to be identical to those found beneath the upcoming line of I.D. electric vehicles — a product portfolio that includes a latter-day Microbus. Besides using the MEB platform, VW might take advantage of the  electric motor’s compact size and hook one to the rear wheels, thus returning the Beetle to the drive configuration it was born with.
Newly minted Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess (formerly VW brand boss) is keen to keep models around that remind people of Volkswagens of yore. He calls them “emotional” models. But before consumers get to enjoy those warm feelings, there’s high-volume money to be made — and that means cranking out things like the I.D. (due next year) and I.D. Crozz SUV first. The reborn Microbus (called the I.D. Buzz) comes along in 2022.
“Our duty is to get the volume [ID] models under way,” said VW design boss Klaus Bischoff. “These cars have super-complicated technology and if you do too much, it’s an overload. Then we [can] move into more exotic cars and the field of emotion.”
He added, “The Beetle of today is a very attractive two-door coupé or convertible, but it is limited in the amount of cars that it can sell because it’s a niche.” By borrowing the shortest-wheelbase version of the MEB platform, Mischoff said VW should be able to produce a Beetle with classic dimensions, only now with more interior volume. Four doors are essential for maximizing the usefulness of that space.
VW redesigned the Beetle for the 2012 model year, but the upsurge in sales didn’t last long. After a post-recession U.S. sales high in 2013, it was down, down, down for the little coupe and convertible. Sales plummeted 41.6 percent, year over year, in May. Total volume over the first five months of 2018 fell 5.5 percent.

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