In what appears to be a clever move to show its strengths, versatility, room, and economy, while maximizing profit by presenting the cargo version first instead of pushing the passenger Bus, VW decided to reveal the commercial form of one of its most signature halos. By showing what and how it can haul, how it can perform, how economical it can be, and how popular it can become using the commercial van first, VW enables many things with MicroBus while her passenger sister the Samba, is still in the oven:
Event: ID BUZZ CARGO reveal for the World premiere at 2018 IAA Commercial Vehicles Sept 20-27. Hanover, Germany.
- I.D. BUZZ CARGO has the potential to write history as one of the most advanced transporters.
- Spacious electric transporter concept vehicle based on the Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB).
- VW unveils the ID Buzz MEB Platform in cargo form the 2022 Kombi Van (no naming yet).
- It reveals the cargo van before the passenger one.
- The very flexible MEB platform was separately unveiled as the base the vehicle. This is the same platform that Beetle 4 would have used.
- The mini van is made retro Type 2 Transporter style.
- The cargo variant has less glass which means more options for variants and customization.
- A quicker launch of the commercial variant means more revenue and quicker launches of things like fleet versions and campers, a market woefully deficient in electric units for sale.
- Sits three across with a fold-down middle for a computer workstation to use in a job site.
- With a flat face there’s no need for a traditional cockpit. A head-up display is standard allowing you to keep your eyes on the road at all times.
- With the biggest battery the MEB makes ranges of over 550 km (WLTP) possible, that should give just under 350 miles of range.
- A large solar roof extends the daily range of the I.D. BUZZ CARGO by up to 15 km, an additional 9 miles of range (Emergency range extender?).
- 230V socket provides workers' tools with power for hours with no additional generator. A pair of electrical outlets to allow customers to plug in electrical tools and devices.
- Digital cargo system connects cockpit and cargo space and brings superfast "Internet of things" on board. A CAN system connected to the driver’s seat that allows a company to ensure all equipment or inventory is properly boarded before leaving a site for another destination. Way cool.
- Concept is autonomous capable, In "I.D. Pilot" mode the I.D. BUZZ
- CARGO concept vehicle drives using full automation (level 4) to its next place of use
- This vehicle will “supplement the "T6" – the Transporter, Caravelle, Multivan and California” as a separate segment.
- Vehicle “has interactive LED systems, which not only turn night into day, but also communicate interactively with pedestrians – like eyes.”
- Vehicle “creates a unique night design with the backlit VW logo on the front of the vehicle and the LED daytime running lights in the headlights and front bumper.”
- wide-opening rear wing doors and a new rear bumper.
- With a view towards optimising utilisation of the cargo space with shelving systems.
- No sliding door on the driver’s side – and this is typical of transporters.
- The front doors and sliding door open electrically.
- Unlocking the vehicle from the outside is activated via a sensor solution.
- The I.D. BUZZ CARGO recognises authorised persons via a digital key which is sent to the van from a smartphone.
Using fast charging systems operating at 150 kW direct current, the 48-kWh battery can be charged to 80 per cent capacity in 15 minutes; for the largest battery expansion stage with an energy capacity of 111 kW it takes 30 minutes. As an alternative, the high-voltage battery can be charged from any conventional household socket, charging stations with a wide variety of power outputs or wallboxes. Although the Bulli can be charged at 2.3 kW via a normal 230V mains, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles offers wallboxes that operate at much higher power levels up to 11 kW. They are especially advisable for charging batteries to 100 per cent at a company's vehicle depot overnight (when electricity prices are often lower).
- Length 5,986 mm Payload 1.75 tonnes, class beneath the Crafter.
- The payload (maximum load) of the concept vehicle is 800 kg.
- 5,048 mm long, 1,976 mm wide and 1,963 mm tall.
- Wheelbase 3,300 mm.
- 20-inch wheels are used with size 235/55 tires.
Glossary: There are many nicknames and expressions for the 1949 VW Type 2 Transporter, its official name from launch then. Samba, Kombi, Bulli, MicroBus, and Bus are a few. For this article for distinction I call Samba the passenger variant, Kombi the cargo one. VW hasn’t really named it yet other than ID Buzz Cargo on MEB Platform.
Phaeton: the storied saloon that is the mother to the Bentley Continental Flying Spur Saloon, in VW clothing. Here, I make her the top luxury trim on Samba.
Inductive Charging from the press release: The battery system prepared for inductive charging, likewise with 11 kW of charging power, positioned – via electronic control – over a “charging plate” during parking. As soon as the control unit of the charging plate in the pavement has set up a communications channel with the vehicle, contactless energy can be transferred through an electromagnetic field generated between two coils (one in the floor of the parking space and one in the vehicle).
Why the Cargo First
Starting production of stripped van first with few features used for commercial purposes as a truck does many things for VW. It creates hype for the passenger variant which, in the end as profitable as it might be, probably isn’t as profitable as the much more versatile cargo Kombi. More sheet metal less glass means more options for different builds. Two seats with airbags, a/c, that’s it. Back up monitoring, a 2 seat bench behind, nav and infotainment if you want to get fancy.
As a truck there’s less home and import regulations which means less features like passive safety systems which add major costs to a vehicle. A commercial variant is so much easier to produce that the more there are in fleets the less advertising VW has to do, they’ll let the product speak for itself, as this is a Tesla marketing strategy. As a local business vehicle, a camper, a custom van conversion, or a delivery truck, customers, neighbors, friends, and business associates can see the product in action for themselves, and get people talking just like a Tesla does.
Speaking of buying in bulk, for maximum profit with a cargo variant up front, VW Westfalia and other camper outfitters can start whipping out desperately needed electric camper vans right away ahead of the passenger version, a major money maker. There is a serious deficit of electric camper vans in that market, and Kombi Cargo has the potential of doing in the commercial world and for campers what Beetle did for “the people’s car.” This part I can’t wait for, and when it happens this reporter promises to give you the latest electric camper updates. I will forgive VW for making an electric version of their camper named California after my home state that they have the audacity not to sell in my home state, when I see an electric version of Kombi in camper form on sale here, in my state.
How About Other Variants?
It won’t surprise me if the panel van and pickup come right after this to leave the range topping Samba (incidentally that’s what I’m calling it out of affection and brevity until it gets an official name see glossary up above), which I bet the top trim will be quite luxurious and quite expensive, for last. Phaeton, Atlas, Tiguan, and even Touareg, past and present key vehicles that have recently defined what Volkswagen luxury and performance is, I also bet will lend their styling cues, luxuriousness, and legacies onto the interiors of the top tier Samba, no doubt.
I’m also hoping they’ll be some kind of performance variant like a SportWagen or GTI version of the van like a 100D. With stability control and a low battery tray I don’t think we have to worry as much about tip-over with this shoebox. It would be nice to see an electric Samba dragstrip kick a Hell Cat’s ass on YouTube without putting a Porsche engine or Taycan guts in the back (attention tuner shops am I getting your heads spinning with ideas?). But mindful of Volkswagen style, I’m not holding my breath.
ANALYSIS: Lessons From Beetle, the Problems with Volkswagen’s House Brand
There are lessons to be learned from Beetle that definitely will apply to VW Bus. Pardon the extended explanation. I think one of the reasons we saw a quicker exit of iconic Beetle is that VW waited too long to electrify her, in fact I think they waited too long to electrify Kombi with decades, and I mean DECADES of endless concept renderings and prototypes that got me oh so turned off to VW about Beetle then Bus. I was shocked there were 2 gens of the Beetle revival with the drawings, concepts, and protos there were with that. I’ll still wait with exasperated patience with Bus. Like everything else in the auto industry, including bankruptcy, timing is everything.
Another big issue I saw with Beetle is Golf. VW needed to have one or the other, not both. I knew Beetle would eventually head for trouble when I learned years ago the revival was based on the Golf. In becoming a Golf based vehicle it became a totally different kind of Beetle than Type 1. If push comes to shove you know the Beetle would go first, not Golf, and that’s exactly what eventually happened. Obviously they did this to save money. But Beetle needed to be on its own platform and offer something quite completely different than Golf does, that it really didn’t. The only difference, really, was one had a hatch, that’s all, they even both had a convertible.
Another reason for the Beetle exit was that like everything else Volkswagen does, it tried to go upmarket with her when her customers are feeling more downmarket with her, in her most important foreign market next to China toward the end, especially with the last generation. She was starting to revert back to looking too much like her ancestor, the Porsche 911. The problem was that they didn’t give her the Porsche mojo with the looks. If you’re going to make something that appeals to more males by making it look like a Porsche, then make it act like or close to a Porsche, it doesn’t have to go as fast, starting with putting the engine on steroids, if not in the back. This is the equivalent of confining Mustang to a 4 cylinder engine, not even turbocharged. Where would Mustang be if so? This was another missed opportunity. They could have legitimately made the Beetle of all VW Group cars, the “step up from” car into the world of Porsche, especially for younger men whom they were after. Dr. Ferdinand, you created these two machines, where are you when I need you? It shows you not even VW takes the Beetle seriously. Shame. Well, I hope they do with the Bus.
A Car that was a U.S. Disaster for VW but Saved Bentley
Volkswagen should have learned from Phaeton that while they are direct worldwide competitors with Daimler to make vehicles toe to toe just as luxurious and performance oriented, they brand and market their cars way way differently. Daimler started upmarket in North America with the S Class precursor the W120 “Pontoon” saloon and improved to the iconic W116 in the 70s and then worked their way down their model range to present B Class and Smart. Volkswagen started downmarket with Beetle and it took them 60 years to try to go upmarket with Phaeton at the turn of this century. Phaeton flopped.
The impressions in American minds are outlasting and indelible, and perhaps the damage to brand perception not being luxurious shall never be undone. Americans have no problem spending $120,000+ USD on a German Daimler Saloon, they just couldn’t see spending $110,000 on a fancy VW Saloon, regardless of a fancy 12 cylinder engine that to service it correctly you had to take the face off the car and pull it out of this some kind of tray, if I remember seeing one at a dealer in Baltimore once being serviced, it looked like surgery, an expensive proposition. Mrs. Merkel had no problem riding in one as a VW state car as Phaeton was popular there as it’s a great car, but Americans had a problem with it as their own. VW couldn’t go upmarket with Phaeton, nor could they with Beetle, maybe the convertible.
I think they should’ve went downmarket with Ladybug, strip her, made her cheaper, follow the Mini Cooper model of providing more customization which means an ala carte menu of options to let customers get carried away like you can do with Mini, and it’s there where you make the money. Take a $20,000 car and make it a $45,000 proposition to your tastes, like Mini. VW chose not to do that. Most importantly if they simplified and electrified her sooner, I think Americans and the rest of the world frankly, would have been more forgiving of her not being a utility to give her a try as a plebeian electric. e-Beetle sounded more truer to the brand than e-Golf.
Americans seem to be a bit waning on Mini lately but they’ve seemed to work around that somewhat with Countryman and Clubman. VW was looking to do something similar with Beetle on the electric MEB platform in a utilitarian sedan variant, which was what VW was thinking of doing with Super Beetle back in the 70s, which was the logical progression for Beetle that the purists back in the 70s stopped VW from doing it. Some say with the 70s onslaught from Japan with tiny hatchback Civics and Corollas that was Beetles rapid demise then, that utility could’ve saved her.
But a MEB Beetle would have meant more electric options and space for things like AWD 4x4 off road, a sedan hatch, even a Beetle CUV, maybe a Beetle subbrand with variants. You can tell the Beetle people inside VW had enough when they first announced its final demise in March this year, but then a few months later the MEB people at VW gave us hope when they said no, wait a minute, we can save Beetle with a utility sedan plan on a MEB platform, there’s room for a more versatile Beetle, old school, old style trimmings, electric engine in the back, no frills, back to basics. We got excited. Beetle was returning to her true VW Dr. Porsche’s “people’s car” roots. Then came tariff talk and a massive global vehicle purchase slow down that may cause the next recession. So went Beetle. FINALLY. THE END.
What Does this All Have to do With VW Bus? Moving on to the Beetle Van
So, with all the above in mind, there’s a point to this. We often forget that Beetle Type 2 is a van version of Beetle Type 1 and their legacies are interchangeable if the platforms aren’t anymore. A new chapter, and a fresh start and a fresh platform, VW has another opportunity to blow the dust off an old halo and start fresh. When you think about it, Type 2 Kombi (commercial) and Samba (passenger) are the VW Beetles of the van, truck, SUV, CUV, whatever that world is but not a car, and with that they have an opportunity to build on Beetle’s legacy with fewer of the Beetle mistakes: a Kombi subbrand, in-house pre-delivery customization, tons of variants, powertrain variations, skies the limits to keep it constant, keep it fresh.
By starting with the Kombi van they are doing the customization thing that Mini does with their vehicles but in V Dub style. It’s a start to get things going. They can do what VW does best and start down market with a cheap stripped van with a clean canvas to maximize money making, let the customers customize elsewhere or by themselves, and wait for time and feedback and marketing surveys and dealer input to work their way up to decide if there should be a leather lined wine cooler equipped VW Phaeton Samba or steroided Kombi or Samba GTI SportWagen. A van gives you more options than a two door economy car, and the greater possibility of model longevity. Each should have a serious off road Synchro version including the top Phaeton and GTI trims.
History is Allowed Once in a While to Repeat Itself
Whatever they decide to do there’s no reason why from learning from their mistakes why this vehicle in some generation or iteration can’t make it to its centenniary, and that would be in 2048-2049 when a customer in 1948 took a rough sketch of a Beetle platform and converted into a variant of the Bus in truck form that launched things like Flower Power and Surfer Dudes and the expression “V Dub,” as the precursor for the official vehicle of the Soccer Mom. Tell me what other time in Automotive History will a customer come into a car factory in the middle of capacity production of an already popular vehicle, with drawings for the engineers to take them and put them into production! It’s one of those only once in a lifetime things!
VW was at full capacity building Beetle in ‘48, but when a lull came a year later it took just a few drawings and modifications including a ladder frame in the monobody to strengthen it, and they put it right into production to create its journey with destiny.
And here she is again, all 21st century done up, electrified, almost as cute as her older sisters who have stories to pass on. It is amazing how something created in the heart of Wolfsburg has had such an impact on American culture and this new one may have on the 21st century, as I can see a bidding frenzy at Bonhams, or on eBay, long gone I’ll be, 50 years from now for a fully restored 2022 I.D. Buzz Electric Samba by Volkswagen!
Volkswagen plans to put Kombi first into production as early as 2021, and Samba by 2022. Of Beetle and it’s future, Beetle 3 is dead. Period, but like Elvis, as the VW CEO recently said, “who’s knows? Never say never!” That’s how Beetle 2 came into being.
What do you think of ID Buzz Kombi Samba? Let us know below!