We’ve been talking about the next Volkswagen Beetle — well, a few of us have — ever since the restyled two-door dropped the “New” moniker and flatted out its roofline a tad.
While the 2012 reshaping gave the model a new lease on life, it also seemed to be the plucky coupe’s end point, stylistically speaking. Where do you take a model from there, without erasing the retro charm that wooed buyers in the late 1990s? Maybe it was time for the model to die. Not surprisingly, reports arose last year claiming the Beetle had a date with the chopping block.
And yet, that rumor never really went anywhere. The model remains, its official future still in limbo. However, it seems Volkswagen brass is coming around to the idea that the Beetle deserves a permanent place in the company’s lineup, though not in the layout we’ve grown accustomed to.
Any new New Beetle will be rear-wheel drive, says VW chairman Herbert Diess.
As reported by Autocar, it seems the efforts of VW design head (and Beetle aficionado) Klaus Bischof might be paying off. Diess said a proposal for a next-generation Beetle will soon go before the company’s board, part of the planning process for the company’s future vehicles.
This won’t come as a shock, given the industry’s direction: the Beetle, if it soldiers on, will not do so with an on-board gas tank.
“If we wanted to do a Beetle, electrically it would be much better than today’s model, much closer to history, because it could be rear-wheel drive,” Diess said. The proposed electric Beetle would share its versatile MEB platform underpinnings with a number of electric vehicles, including the reborn Microbus.
Picture it — a Beetle and Microbus, back together again, only now with zero tailpipe emissions. (Hubert Humphrey bumper stickers not included.)
Given that VW has already nailed down what it wants from its first crop of new EVs, any new Beetle would come after a flurry of launches scheduled for the 2020-2022 time frame. “The next decision on electric cars will be what kind of emotional concepts we need,” Diess explained.
While there’s surely powertrain advancements in store for that far-away time, a direct carryover of the company’s planned electric propulsion systems could put roughly 200 horsepower and gobs of torque to the Beetle’s rear wheels. Or, if VW felt compelled, it could go dual-motor/all-wheel drive. Call that vision the EcoDune, if you will.
As Diess said, “You can do derivatives efficiently. We have a very flexible platform.”
Beetle sales in the U.S. last year dropped to a low not seen since the slow model changeover in 2011, with only 15,667 units sold. That’s less than one-fifth the volume seen in its best year, 1999, when 83,434 Americans took home a reborn Love Bug.
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