Today, at the Lodge at Pebble Beach during Monterey Car Week, Volkswagen officially announced the return of the Microbus to America. The all-electric, modern-day Bus will be based on the I.D. Buzz concept vehicle, which VW displayed at this year’s Detroit auto show, and it will be electric-powered, part of a series of all-new electric vehicles VW will sell in America beginning in 2021.
Yes, the most egalitarian of all people movers was announced on the same lawn where the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, with its hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of rare exotic and collector cars, is held. If this seems ironic, Dr. Herbert Diess, global head of the Volkswagen brand, points out that “Pebble Beach is so important to the emotional part of our industry, and the Microbus is the most emotional car, the most iconic car, Volkswagen has ever built.”
The modern Microbus will be built on Volkswagen’s new global electric platform, called MEB, for “Modular Electric Baukasten,” with Baukasten meaning, simply, toolbox. “Our previous attempts to reinvent the Microbus [for America] never worked out due to platform issues,” explains VW’s North American chief, Hinrich Woebcken. “The beauty of the I.D. Buzz is that the vehicle is scalable. The interior can be stretched as we wish, as we aren’t having to make room for an engine and transmission.” Hence the production version of the Microbus, as yet unnamed, might have slightly smaller exterior dimensions than the I.D. Buzz concept.
But the electric Bus will not be the first electric vehicle that Volkswagen will offer Americans. VW will kick off MEB-platform production with a vehicle for China in 2020, followed by at least one electric car for America in 2021, most likely a small crossover. The Bus will debut in 2022 as a capstone for Volkswagen’s initial efforts to transform its fleet to electric propulsion, a crucial goal for the automaker as it tries to put its diesel powertrain scandal behind it.
Ahead of today’s announcement, Volkswagen assembled a fleet of T1- and T2-generation Microbuses that drove in convoy from Cannery Row in Monterey, through the village of Pacific Grove, along the famed Seventeen Mile Drive, and onto the eighteenth green of the Pebble Beach golf course, and the Volkswagens got more attention than any priceless Ferrari ever would. Everybody loves the Microbus, even if everyone doesn’t love Volkswagen.