Back to the future: VW unwraps possible mini-bus successor
February 28. 2011 5:37PM
Christine Tierney / The Detroit News
Few vehicles trigger happier memories than the iconic Volkswagen bus, a practical van that became an emblem of the free-wheeling '60s.
VW has toyed for years with the idea of bringing back this model, and this week it's displaying its latest interpretation of the bus at the Geneva motor show.
Dubbed the Bulli, as the original bus was called in Germany, the concept vehicle features cutting-edge technology and a zero-emission electric drivetrain, yet remains true to the spirit of the bus launched in 1950.
While the Bulli is a show car, the company indicated it might provide the inspiration for a new model that would join the VW lineup.
The Bulli is equipped with an electric motor located forward of the front axle. Powered by a 3,200-pound lithium-ion battery, it can store 40 kilowatt hours of electricity providing a driving range of 186.4 miles.
With a length of 156 inches, a width of 68.4 inches and height of 66 inches, the two-toned Bulli is wider and shorter than the old bus.
"It's very cool-looking," said Jack Nerad, an industry analyst at Kelley Blue Book, the used-car pricing firm. "There are retro elements to it, but it's not a retro design."
The Bulli's interior combines technological updates with nostalgic touches. Like the old Microbus, as it was known in the United States, the Bulli concept has a single bench seat in front.
Its updated console features a removable iPad offering Internet-based applications as well as controlling functions, such as a Bluetooth hands-free phone and a navigation system. U.S. guitar and amplifier maker Fender produced the sound system.
Like the old bus, the Bulli's seating system can be rearranged easily into a large reclining surface, transforming the vehicle into a compact camper.
Analysts said they expected Volkswagen to launch a model based on the Bulli concept, in part to fulfill its ambitious U.S. sales targets. The Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker aims to triple U.S. sales of VW cars by 2018.
Currently it offers the Routan in North America, a slow-selling model derived from Chrysler's Dodge Caravan.
A production version of the Bulli is likely to appeal "to the same demographic that was drawn to the minibus back in the day — the 18-to-34's," Nerad said.
"It would probably bag some aging boomers who were fans of the original Microbus, as well."
[QUOTE=Project84;147125I'm not "rich" by any means but I do have one advantage if you will... I'm a maintenance man.[/QUOTE]