VW’s exciting 2001 Microbus concept was killed in 2005. But a senior VW official has now told an Australian newspaper, “We’re looking at ways to produce the Microbus that will make it competitive in North America.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports, “There appears to be renewed enthusiasm to see the Microbus reach production—although in a much more modified form than planned.”
If production does go ahead it’s likely to be at Volkswagen’s new plant in Chattanooga, which is set to build a four-door sedan in 2011 for the North American market. According to the Herald, spokeswoman Jill Bratina “confirmed VW was considering production of a second model in Chattanooga but stopped short of revealing more.”
Could this mark the resurrection of VW’s widely acclaimed prototype? Based on the T5 commercial van and originally slated for production in Hanover, the styling held promise: it captured the flavor of the original in the same way that the BMW Mini and the new Fiat 500 resemble their legendary forebears.
Volkswagen boss Bernd Pischetsrieder formally killed the project but his replacement, former Audi boss Martin Winterkorn, apparently sees profit potential in the Microbus.
Interest in the Microbus, or Kombi as many territories know it, has never waned. The original bus is still made in Brazil, but powered by a 1.4 liter watercooled engine. And a couple of years ago, VW’s Electronics Research Laboratory in Palo Alto took the slightly bizarre step of retrofitting a perfectly good 1964 Deluxe Microbus with oodles of modern technology, calling it the VW Chameleon. The only real innovation was getting Hybrid Technologies to swap out the original engine with an electric motor powered by lithium polymer batteries.
Aside from Volkswagen’s own 2001 concept, the most promising reinvention of the Microbus was the Westfalia Verdier. Revealed two years ago by Canadian industrial designer Alexandre Verdier and friends, it never made it to physical prototype stage.
But now it looks like VW has finally come to its senses, and realised that the iconic Kombi is still relevant after all these years. With a little luck, we’ll see the world’s best-loved camper back on the road again—in a form that does justice to the original.
You can still get a ‘new’ Type 2 Kombi campervan if you live in the UK. But if you hanker after modern amenities in your retro-looking van, check out the beautiful Tonke Campers built in Holland.