Volkswagen is actively considering plans for an electric, rear-wheel-drive successor to today’s Beetle as part of a range of zero-emissions models based on its new MEB (Modular Electric Baukasten) platform, according to the German car maker’s chairman, Herbert Diess.
The proposed electric-powered Beetle, which would be a sister model to the modern-day Microbus that was presaged by the ID Buzz concept at this year’s Detroit motor show, is one of a number of proposals that are planned to be put before Volkswagen board members when they meet to vote on ways to build on the company’s initial range of electric cars.
“The next decision on electric cars will be what kind of emotional concepts we need,” says Diess.
Explaining the term “emotional concepts”, Volkswagen’s 59-year-old chairman says it covers cars such as the Microbus and Beetle, as well as open-top models such as the Kübelwagen and Buggy.
Diess denies that a firm decision on the Beetle's successor has been made. However, he suggests that any direct successor model would be electric. “If we wanted to do a Beetle, electrically it would be much better than today’s model, much closer to history, because it could be rear-wheel drive,” he adds.
Diess says the MEB platform provides the perfect basis for emotional concepts: “We have a good chance on the electric side. You can do derivatives efficiently. We have a very flexible platform. We can do nice things: rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive.”
The reference to rear-wheel drive stemmed from the layout planned for Volkswagen’s first fully dedicated electric-powered model, as previewed by the ID hatchback at last year’s Paris motor show. It runs a single electric motor developing 168bhp that is mounted within the rear axle assembly, providing drive to the rear wheels.
The rear-mounted electric motor and rear-wheel-drive layout of the ID hatchback mirrors that of the original Beetle in 1939, which used a rear-mounted boxer engine and was rear-wheel drive. Its adoption on a modern-day Beetle could open up a number of packaging advantages not seen on today’s front-engined/front-wheel-drive model, including a front luggage compartment similar to that of the original.
Volkswagen resurrected the Beetle in 1997 following positive reception of the retro Concept One show car at the 1994 Detroit motor show. The first-generation model was produced at Volkswagen’s plant in Puebla, Mexico, until 2010, when it was succeeded by a second-generation model that remains on sale today.
Diess confirmed to Autocar that the MEB platform is already planned to support up to 15 new electric-powered models, five of which will be sold under the Volkswagen name.