What’s Old is New Again at VW

It appears that the future, according to Volkswagen, is firmly rooted in its past. The company launched the I.D. Buzz, an autonomous electric van, in January at the Detroit Auto Show and clearly took its styling cues from the iconic Volkswagen Bus. Officially called the Volkswagen Type 2 (T1) but often called the ‘Bulli’ in Germany and the ‘Microbus’ in the United States, was the company’s original eight-seater van that became synonymous with the hippie movement and a symbol of the Summer(s) of Love in the ‘60s.

In later decades, the Volkswagen Van was seen as the ultimate family getaway vehicle that spawned countless road trips around the country. The original van was built because the company wanted to build something that used a similar powertrain and chassis as the classic Volkswagen Type 1 (the Beetle) but could also accommodate more people. And, for those of you too young to remember, just Google the VW Beetle and check out the golden age of cute cars.

The Volkswagen Type 2 hit the market in the early 1950s, and by the end of the decade, the van had over 90% market share in that segment. What’s really interesting, and we didn’t even know this, is that the fourth generation van was only taken off the market in North America in 2003.

It looks like the Volkswagen Group decided needed to go back in history for it to move forward when the company decided to pioneer a new autonomous van. The new ‘Bulli,’ the I.D. Buzz concept car, includes touch-sensitive steering, center mounted tablet information screen, an augmented reality heads-up display system. The interior has swivel chairs with the capacity to turn the third row into a bed – something tells me the company might know what their original buses were used for. The company claims that the van comes with an 111-kilowatt-hour battery, can deliver around 369 horse power, and should be able to go for around 270 miles before needing a charge. The vintage cues and fond memories of the original bus might engender buyers to an autonomous people mover. If the I.D. Buzz is anything like its great grandfather, it’s sure to capture not just our imaginations, but our wallets.