Special Coverage

Geneva
Auto Show

Volkswagen signals strongly it will return to the market with a new Microbus, suggesting the icon of America’s Hippie movement will make a comeback in the form of the concept vehicle unveiled today in Geneva.

The new Microbus, known as the Bulli in Europe, is widely believed to be targeted for 2014. VW doesn’t confirm that in unveiling its Geneva concept, but says the timing for a new Microbus/Bulli, an idea first presented in Detroit 10 years ago, finally may be right.

“Some visions need to mature before they yield something new,” the auto maker says in a prepared statement. “Now, the time is right for this vision.

“This concept has the potential to establish a new, fifth brand of people carrier next to the Caddy, Touran, Sharan and its large counterpart – the Caravelle. The Bulli could even become an icon, like the T1 Samba that still trades at extremely high prices today, one of those few vehicles that simply do not fade with time.”

The Bulli/Microbus concept is all electric, powered by an 85-kW (114 hp) electric motor that delivers 199 lb.-ft. (270 Nm) of torque. Acceleration 0-62 mph (100 km/h) takes 11.5 seconds and top speed is 87 mph (140 km/h).

Its 40-kWh lithium-ion battery provides a range of 186 miles (300 km), VW says. It can recharge fully in less than one hour, when using what the auto maker calls a specially designed “electric refueling station.”

The concept also is designed to accommodate conventional powertrains, with engines ranging from 1.0L to 1.4L in displacement possible, VW says. Engine placement would be in the front of the vehicle, as is the Microbus’ electric motor, and drive is through the front wheels. The 3,197-lb. (1,450-kg) battery is concealed in the sandwiched floor.

Walter de Silva, head of Volkswagen Group design, and Klaus Bischoff, head of VW brand design, developed the concept’s “design DNA,” incorporating brand traits from the Beetle, Golf and T1 van.

The van measures 157.1 ins. (399.0 cm) long, 68.9 ins. (175.0 cm) wide and 66.9 ins. (170.0 cm) tall. It has a wheelbase of 103.2 ins. (262.0 cm).

The Microbus’ 2-tone paint treatment harkens back to the ʼ60s-era models, but its front bumper is integrated into the body, its headlamps rectangular instead of round and its front-mounted VW emblem huge.

Inside, a removable iPad in the center console serves as a touchscreen to operate the navigation system, climate controls and other features. Because of its electric power, there’s no tachometer or conventional gear selector. A rotary switch allows the driver to select forward or reverse gears.

A rear bench seat can be stowed completely in the floor. All the seats can recline to form one large surface, turning the van into a compact camper.