VW BEE­TLE TO BE RE­BORN AS ELEC­TRIC CAR

VW chiefs are mulling a rad­i­cal yet more func­tional take on the orig­i­nal peo­ple’s car

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - RACHEL BURGESS

Arev­o­lu­tion­ary new Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle is un­der con­sid­er­a­tion and, if given the green light by VW chiefs, it will adopt a bat­tery-pow­ered elec­tric pow­er­train. It will also move away from its trade­mark twodoor bodystyle to a four-door ar­range­ment and could even use the rear-wheel-drive char­ac­ter­is­tics of the orig­i­nal ‘Type 1’ Bee­tle of 1945.

The model would be based on VW’S flex­i­ble elec­tric ve­hi­cle ar­chi­tec­ture, MEB, which will un­der­pin the car maker’s range of elec­tric mod­els un­der its new ID badge. The first of these to ar­rive will be the ID hatch­back next year.

VW has al­ready con­firmed that the cur­rent Bee­tle, which has been on sale since 2011 and is the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion since the iconic car was re­vived as a front-wheel-drive car in 1997, will not be di­rectly re­placed once pro­duc­tion ends next year. VW UK has al­ready stopped tak­ing or­ders.

How­ever, VW boss Her­bert Diess is keen to in­tro­duce a greater num­ber of “emo­tional” cars to VW’S range along­side its more stan­dard mod­els. As the firm’s most sto­ried name­plate, the Bee­tle is con­sid­ered a strong con­tender for this role.

The first “emo­tional” model will be the ID Buzz mi­crobus. In­spired by the clas­sic camper van, it is sched­uled to ar­rive in 2022, be­fore which VW will launch its more main­stream elec­tric ve­hi­cles. In ad­di­tion to the ID hatch­back, there will be pro­duc­tion ver­sions of the ID Crozz SUV and ID Vizzion sa­loon, both pre­vi­ously seen as con­cepts, and a larger elec­tric SUV is also due.

VW de­sign boss Klaus Bischoff said the com­pany must fo­cus on pro­duc­ing the big­ger-sell­ing elec­tric cars be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion on a Bee­tle EV and other mod­els: “Our duty is to get the vol­ume [ID] mod­els un­der way. These cars have su­per-com­pli­cated tech­nol­ogy and if you do too much, it’s an overload. Then we [can] move into more ex­otic cars and the field of emo­tion.”

The pack­ag­ing ad­van­tages of the MEB plat­form would en­able VW to broaden the Bee­tle’s ap­peal

On the pos­si­bil­ity of a ze­roe­mis­sions Bee­tle, Bischoff said the pack­ag­ing ad­van­tages of the MEB plat­form could en­able VW to broaden the ap­peal of the model by of­fer­ing more space and com­fort while re­tain­ing the iconic shape: “The Bee­tle of today is a very at­trac­tive two-door coupé or con­vert­ible, but it is limited in the amount of cars that it can sell be­cause it’s a niche.

“If you look at MEB, the short­est wheel­base [pos­si­ble] is the ID [hatch­back]. If you took that and did the Bee­tle on it, you have plenty of room so there’s no com­pro­mise in func­tion­al­ity any more. So it could be a very at­trac­tive car.”

Bischoff con­firmed that he has al­ready made a sketch of how a four-door Bee­tle on the MEB plat­form might look, but added it would be two or three years be­fore a de­ci­sion to ap­prove such a car for pro­duc­tion would be taken.

Al­though the Bee­tle EV would be de­rived from the ID hatch­back’s un­der­pin­nings, Bischoff did not think there would be a dan­ger of the two mod­els com­pet­ing for the same cus­tomers: “It has al­ways been the cul­ture at VW that there’s enough room for two or even three [in the same seg­ment].”

Diess has dropped hints about an elec­tric Bee­tle in the past: “If we wanted to do a Bee­tle EV, it would be much bet­ter than today’s model, much closer to his­tory, be­cause it could be rear-wheel drive.”

Re­fer­ring to the MEB tool kit pro­vid­ing a per­fect ba­sis for ‘emo­tional’ con­cepts, Diess said: “We have a good chance on the elec­tric side. You can do de­riv­a­tives ef­fi­ciently. We have a very flex­i­ble plat­form. We can do nice things: rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive or all­wheel drive.”

Diess, who was ap­pointed boss of the en­tire VW Group ear­lier this year, de­scribed the group’s strat­egy as “the most far-reach­ing elec­tri­fi­ca­tion ini­tia­tive in the car in­dus­try”.

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Ven­er­a­ble Bee­tle name­plate re­tains emo­tional ca­chet

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