After a series of delays, Volkswagen finally has set a date for the launch of the ID.Buzz, it’s all-electric paean to the classic VW Microbus that became a symbol of the American counterculture.
The production version of the Buzz will be revealed on March 9, announced Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess in a tweet. But that’s for the European version of the electric microbus. The U.S. version will follow in 2023.
“The legend returns on 3/09/22!” Diess said in a tweet – which uses the U.S. date format.
A long history
What was originally known as the Volkswagen Type 2 dates back to the late 1940s, when a Dutch Volkswagen importer sketched out the idea of a multifunction van. The production version launched March 8, 1950, so the debut of the new model marks a slightly delayed anniversary celebration.
Throughout the decades, the Type 2 came to be known by many names, including “Hippie Van,” reflecting its wild popularity among the American counterculture.
“For many people, the VW Microbus became the symbol of protest with Detroit’s overpowered cars and society in general,” Roger White curator of road transportation history at the Smithsonian told the museum’s magazine in an interview. “It was a way of thumbing their noses at the establishment.”
The classic version faded away, along with the counterculture, the Microbus facing a variety of challenges, including strict new U.S. safety standards. It hung on in a few remote markets until 2014.
A series of false starts
VW did try to repeat its success with newer designs that moved the driver further back, adopting a front, rather than rear-engine layout and providing a more effective crash structure. But it wasn’t able to generate near the interest among consumers as with the Type 2.
So, the German automaker spent years trying to find a way to recreate the magic while also meeting government requirements. It came close with the Bulli concept unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. But it wasn’t until the January 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit that it knew it nailed the formula. Though described as a concept, the response was positive enough to quickly convince VW to start working on a production version of the ID.Buzz.
The version set to launch in March will share the same underpinnings as the Volkswagen ID.4 crossover, a skateboard-style architecture called the MEB. Beyond that, VW has been relatively tight-lipped.
The ID.4 Concept offers some clues
The show car used a pair of electric motors, one on each axle, powered by a 111 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack – the largest available for the MEB platform. It was rated at a combined output of 275 kilowatts, or 368 horsepower, with a projected range of 600 kilometers, or 372 miles. But that was with the European NEDC test cycle. If the number holds with the production model it would likely come in closer to 300 miles using the EPA test.
And that would be for the short-wheelbase version which will begin production first. It’s expected to be offered in both passenger and cargo van configurations.
The long-wheelbase version “will debut early in 2023,” VW spokesman Mark Gillies noted in an e-mail to TheDetroitBureau.com.
As recent, partially camouflaged pics have indicated, the production ID.Buzz will hew close to the design of the concept model, but there have been revisions made to the headlights, mirrors and door handles.
What we don’t know
Among the unanswered questions:
- Will there be multiple drivetrain packages, some sources suggesting the electric microbus will be offered with rear- and all-wheel-drive options;
- Will there be different battery-pack options, giving buyers a choice of a lower-cost, albeit shorter-range, package;
- And where will the ID.Buzz be built?
For now, VW has confirmed plans for using a factory in Hanover, Germany. It previously indicated the electric model could also be assembled at its huge production complex in Mexico. But there is speculation the ID.Buzz will become the unnamed second model that VW has planned for in Tennessee. That factory is undergoing a $1 billion expansion for BEVs, though the ID.4 is the only model so far confirmed heading to the Chattanooga plant.
Could a name change be coming?
There’s also some speculation the name, ID.Buzz, could be changed to fit into the alphanumeric approach VW is taking with its other electric models, including the ID.3, ID.4 and ID.7. But it certainly wouldn’t give the reborn Microbus quite the same, er, buzz if VW goes that route.
We shall learn more, as is said, come March 9, 2022 during the planned virtual unveiling.