October 22, 2007

"So We Had This Idea" And Then We Killed It: The 2001 VW Microbus Video

One of the highlights of the Iconosphere event last week was meeting one of the big new marketing brains at Volkswagen. The first thing I did--after high-fiving him on the company's awesome 40-Germans-in-a-Malibu-beach-house research stunt, Project Moonraker, was to tell him to get the damn Microbus concept back on track, because young families would be all over it.


Watching VW's promo mood video for the new Microbus, circa 2001, it still just boggles my mind that the company ever derailed it in the first place:

So we had this idea...
What if we built
an honest
intelligently designed
multi-purpose vehicle
with that most elusive of qualities--
a soul...
Yeah, what if.

Has anyone seen the sequel, What if we botched that idea and went with an inane Chrysler rebadge instead"?

Volkswagen Van Concept on Video, Circa 2001 [jalopnik]
Previously: VW's Real World - Malibu
Hippies getting mixed signals from VW


PREACH, brother. Broke my heart when they scotched the Microbus. But no, hey, great, sell us a Caravan at a 20% markup, sure, that'll be terrific.

I guess I'll just keep watching CarMax for a low-miles '03 Eurovan...

So what'd the pr dude say?

[let me put it this way: I was more optimistic BEFORE I read that Pete Townsend's doing the VW Caravan launch. -ed.]

I learned to drive at five years old, in a beetle with blocks on the pedals. I drove nothing but VWs for years, come from a family that owned one of the first two bugs imported into this country, and still own a 1965 beetle, but I wouldn't buy a VW today for anything.

Modern Jettas killed any interest I had in owning a contemporary model. Killer problems? For me, it was the electricals (for others it's been transmissions and a varitey of other ills). The last straw was the light bulb that could only be replaced by pulling the entire dashboard out -- for a $300 tab. My 1965 beetle has run for 250,000 miles on what amounts to squirrel-power, but no one could get the interior lights to work in my Jetta(s).

As far as microbuses go, nobody did it better than old-school VW and Westphalia -- underpowered, but completely dreamy, with truly clever use of space. I just can't see anything with that much character coming out of VW today -- and I never want to deal with modern VW electrical issues again. I gave at the garage. It was enough already.

My next vehicle's a Honda Element -- flat floor for transporting multiple prams and strollers at once. Your mileage may vary -- I don't haul the kid anymore, just the prams.

[it's exactly the car I thought of as the video played. Also, they'd have to up their game a bit; the 2001 bus space and function definitely feels not so impressive anymore on the inside. -ed.]

Yeah, the first time I saw the ad for the new Town and Country, I remembered the VW microbus video and felt sad.

My dad drives a Honda Element and it is a serious pain to get the kid in and out of a rear facing car seat in an Element. I wish my Sienna had the option of rubber floors though, certainly a whole lot easier to clean.

We too were completely psyched, waiting for the micro-bus which never materialized. I hadn't been that disappointed since the early 90s, when Nissan decided not to produce their half-pick-up, half jellybean, "The Gobi".
Curator: That's interesting about the Jetta headlights. I have a 2001 VW Beetle. The first time I had to get a headlight changed, I took it back to the dealership and asked them to show me how to do it. They said that it had to be done by a VW technician, because "basically, the whole front end of the car has to be disassembled, and it can take at least 45-60min". This would cost approximately $90. I was livid. My husband's father owns an auto-body shop. Following my experience with VW, he ordered a VW shop manual. Reading that, we discovered a tiny, plastic, switch, buried behind the lamp pod, under the hood. You would never find the thing if you didn't know it was there. One push of the switch, the headlight pod popped right out for changing. Disassemble the whole front of the car, my ass. It took 10min to change the light. We complained to VW, but never got a satisfactory response.

[I wanted an Audi A2 for years, and toyed with bringing one over to NA somehow, but the fact that the entire front of the car was locked down with some weird brackets that only dealers could open--like those shoplifting tags--proved to be a dealbreaker. One of the dealbreakers, anyway. -ed.]

Too funny about the VW headlamps - I have a 2000 Beetle, and have the same problem. In fact, a non-VW mechanic broke my dashboard trying to replace one of the side marker lights and had to replace the center panel (which was peeling anyway, so it worked out for me). We also have a Honda for the family-mobile: a Ridgeline. We put the stroller in the trunk.

We can't be the only ones who want the convenience of a minivan, but can't bear to drive an ugly-ass T&C. Why has VW forsaken us?

I'm in love with the VW Caddy, which sadly has no plans of being driven in this country any time soon. I contacted VW and directly, who sent me a terse reply. I currently drive a 2003 Eurovan, the last of its kind, but thinking of selling it for a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle. It's hard to give it up though.

Caddy? See here:

I totally wanted that 2001 VW Bus, but now that I have been a Passat owner for the last 7 years, I have sworn off all VW's. Still, that Bus is sweet. If they made it, I might have to reconsider my VW boycott.

The great-looking VW that will never see American shores is the VW California. You can see it at VW's Spain web site. Practical diesel family carryall with a smart-shifting 6-speed. Surfer kids were camping in one waiting for swell near San Sebastian and let me take a tour. Wouldn't it be ironic if Porsche got the clue and brought it here?

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