Can Volkswagen bring back the van buzz? Icons Electrified Part 1
What electrification could mean for Volkswagen's van and campervan range
Welcome to Icons Electrified, a mini-series where I explore the possible electrification of some of the most iconic vehicles and what it could mean for the reputation of the model. First up, is the Volkswagen campervan/delivery van.
A Brief History
The VW Van takes many names (Micro Bus, Samba, Kombi, Transporter) but for simplicity I will refer to it as the Transporter and other names used are the different varieties of the Transporter. Production of the Delivery Van began in March 1950 and in May of the same year, the Kombi and Micro Bus began production. The Kombi could be used as a people carrier or delivery van and the Micro Bus was the first true people carrier. In 1951, Westfalia, a German coach-building firm, started producing campervan accessories for the Transporter. In 1952, a pick-up version was released. In 1967, the first generation (T1) Transporter production ceased and the second generation (T2) Transporter began production. By 1975, 4 million Transporters had been produced. In 1979, the T3 Transporter went on sale, replacing the T2 despite the production of the second generation model continuing in Mexico and Brazil . The T3 was distinct with its aircooled engine at the rear driving the rear wheels, at a time when most cars had watercooled engines at the front driving the front wheels. In 1981, a new luxury people carrier was revealed bearing the Caravelle name and by 1983, all people carriers carried the Caravelle name. The Multivan, a luxury people carrier with some campervan features, along with four wheel drive versions of existing vans were released in 1985. In 1990, T3 production ceased, making way for the T4 production. The T4 featured front wheel drive and the engine was situated at the front of the van. In 2003, T5 models replaced T4 models, still with no pick-ups after they were cut from the T4 lineup. In 2014, the T6 lineup was announced. If you want to find out more about the history of the Volkswagen Transporter, then here is a link to a book where I sourced most of my information: retrospecparts.com/shop/books-manuals/vw-campers-everything-you-want-to-know/
Why Is the Transporter So Iconic?
Firstly, there's the design. The T1 is so iconic for its two tone paint and split screen and the T2 is famous for its bay window at the front. Also, there is the ability to do nearly anything you could want to do with them, especially the older variations and how easy they are to modify, due to their simplicity. They are quite reliable as well, despite not being particularly fuel-efficient. And they are quite simplistic, no fancy mechanics in the T1 or the T2, making them in most cases easy to maintain, thus keeping them on the road.
The Next Generation
The new 2021 Multivan will feature a hybrid powertrain as one of its options and will replace the T6 Caravelle. It will line up alongside the T6.1 Transporter and the California, the current campervan based on the Transporter. Next year will see the introduction of two new vehicles that are viewed as part of the T7 line-up: the ID Buzz and the ID Buzz Cargo. These two will be the latest in the long line of campervans and delivery vans made by VW and will be all-electric. The Multivan, ID Buzz and ID Buzz Cargo all feature futuristic designs but two tone paint schemes, harking back to the design of the T1.
Questions About the Next Generation
Volkswagen have been promoting their electric range heavily, investing billions across the brands they own to move towards complete electrification and the ID range has been their main focus. The Transporter 6.1 is the only VW van to be electrified, although the electrical components were developed by ABT. The ID Buzz and Cargo feature innovative new technology like a touchscreen steering wheel, autonomous driving and an integrated laptop. The main question is: does this really fit in with the core elements of the van? Vans are typically known for being no-nonsense reliable workhorses rather than a vehicle packed with the latest technology. The ID Buzz focuses on family and making it your home on wheels, but will you really be able to do that with all of the technology that could limit how easy it is to modify? Also, whose house has screens everywhere you look? Volkswagen seem to have ditched the simplicity which makes T1 and T2 campers so popular today. Volkswagen means 'people's car' in German. Will the new ID Buzz and Cargo really be a 'people's car'? One thing is for sure, it won't be cheap. Can an expensive vehicle really be a 'people's car'? Who will the new camper attract? Enthusiasts? Campers? Families?
The new ID Buzz and Cargo version seem to be veering away from what made the original Transporters so popular: the low price and reliability. Why make the next generation, the first all-electric version, look like the original one? Surely they are poles apart, a 1950, simplistic campervan that isn't efficient and a 2024 all-electric campervan packed full of the latest technology. The priorities have changed somewhere and the retro design is just another example of a car company trying to promote a new vehicle using the legacy of an old one.
Information sourced from here: www.volkswagen-vans.co.uk/en/electric-vans/id-buzz.html