If you’re one of the many potential buyers eagerly awaiting the launch of the Volkswagen ID.Buzz, the highly anticipated rebirth of the VW Microbus, expect to wait just a little bit longer.
Originally set to reach showrooms sometime in 2022, the German automaker now says it will have to push the debut of the all-electric model back by a year.
“I wish it was coming next year. It’s not going to come quite as soon as that; it’s going to be a little bit later than that,” Scott Keogh, the CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, said during a recent Automotive News panel discussion.
Fans of the Volkswagen Microbus have learned to be patient, if not hopeful. The original model debuted in 1949 but developed a distinctive following during the 1960s and 1970s as one of the iconic symbols of the Hippie era. It went through a number of iterations in later years but by the time it was redubbed the Transporter in the 1990s it had largely been relegated to a small niche in the key U.S. market.
Since then, VW has made numerous attempts to come up with a new offering that would recapture the distinctive design and features of the original. That included a Microbus Concept that debuted at the North American International Auto Show in 2001, VW promising to have it in showrooms by 2007.
Plans fell through for a number of reasons, but one of the key challenges was finding a way to maintain the traditional layout placing the driver far forward. The blunt nose of the Microbus Concept proved difficult to reconcile with increasingly stringent safety standards.
VW tried again with the Bulli concept reveald at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, then rolled out the BUDD-e show car at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, that model making the critical switch to an all-electric drivetrain.
But it wasn’t until the debut of the ID.Buzz concept at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show that Volkswagen knew it had a winner, with a front end that clearly recaptured the classic Microbus styling, thanks to the use of a skateboard-like platform allowing it to move motors and batteries below the floorboards. Within months, the German manufacturer confirmed giving the Buzz a green light for production.
“The reaction’s been huge,” said Keogh during the panel, “and we just got to get it here. It’s as simple as that.”
But he didn’t offer specific details about the delay, specifically whether the coronavirus pandemic played a role. The production ID.Buzz will be assembled at the automaker’s sprawling plant in Mexico, that country facing significant problems with the virus in recent months — among other things resulting in delays at assembly and parts plants.
What we do know is that the ID.Buzz will share platforms with the new VW ID.4. Set to become the automaker’s first long-range all-electric model targeting North America, it also has been pushed back, with sales set to begin in the coming months.
VW will offer several variants of the ID.Buzz, starting with a base model powered by an 83 kilowatt-hour battery, enough to deliver around 200 miles on a single charge. A single electric motor on the rear axle will produce around 268 horsepower.
At the upper end, the Buzz will be offered with a 111 kWh battery pack, enough for an estimated 270 miles per charge, according to VW. There will be two motors, one driving each axle and producing a combined peak of 369 hp. The top-end microbus should be able to hit 60 in about 5 seconds, VW said, with a top speed of 99 mph.
The Toluca, Mexico plant will be one of many VW is converting for production of electric vehicles. Its factory in Tennessee will have capacity for two models once an expansion program is complete. It will take over production of the ID.4 for the American market when that happens. All told, VW expects to have about 50 long-range battery-electric vehicles in production worldwide by mid-decade, for sales through its various brands. That goes all the way up to high-line Bentley which plans to sell only BEVs by 2030.