Volkswagen's ID Buggy, an electric dune buggy concept, was an eye-catching presence at this week's Geneva International Motor Show. The most surprising thing about it, though, is that VW might actually put it into production.
The immensely impractical ID Buggy would never sell in large numbers, VW admits, but it would have one crucial job: Like the VW ID Buzz electric microbus, the buggy will help make Volkswagen's electric cars cool.
But while the Microbus could be both cool and practical — it is a van, after all — the ID Buggy is little else than fun. It has two seats plus a flat space where two people could sit, albeit not legally. (The back bench could be used in off-road situations or in parades.) There are no windows and there's not even a roof. There are just fittings for a flat sail-cloth shade.
"If you are out driving and it rains, you get wet," explained Klaus Bischoff, VW's head of design, with a shrug.
The floor has holes in it so water can drain out the bottom.
Given that sales are expected to be low, VW never intends to build it in its own high-volume factories. Instead, the German auto giant would make a deal with a company specializing in low-volume auto manufacturing, which could profitably turn out a few thousand a year. VW would sell them in its dealerships next to its more practical Golfs, Passats and various new electric cars.
As VW shifts toward electric vehicles, models like this will become more important, said Scott Keogh, head of VW in North America. Electric cars lack the variety of engines and transmissions that give gasoline-powered cars distinct sounds and personalities. That raises the possibility of cars becoming dull appliances available in a variety of sizes but lacking in spirit or a sense of fun. In the past, with cars like the Beetle, that sense of fun was what set VW apart.
"I think you're going to see us with some core products," said Keogh, "and then you're going to have always three or four or five sort of emotional winners."
Those would be vehicles like the ID Buzz and, maybe, the Buggy.
The ID Buggy is conceptually based on the famous Meyers Manx dune buggy which started production in the 1960s. That fiberglass buggy was built on a shortened VW Beetle chassis. While declaring his fondness for the original, Bischoff points out that ID Buggy actually shares no body lines or design elements with the Manx. The only similarity is that they are both open-air dune buggies and both should be a lot of fun.