WOLFSBURG, Germany – Volkswagen is actively considering plans for an all-electric rear-wheel-drive successor to today’s Beetle as part of a range of zero-emissions models based on its new MEB platform, according to Chairman Herbert Diess.
The proposed new Beetle, which would act as a sister model to the modern-day Microbus presaged by the I.D. Buzz concept at this year’s Detroit auto show, is among several proposals to be put before Volkswagen board members when they meet to vote on ways to extend the automaker’s initial range of electric-powered models.
Diess denies any firm decisions on the successor to the Beetle have yet been made. However, he suggests 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.”
Diess says the MEB platform provides the perfect basis for what he describes as “emotional concepts” such as the Beetle. “We have a good chance (to develop several vehicles) 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.”
Diess’ mention of rear-wheel drive refers to the layout planned for Volkswagen’s first fully dedicated electric-powered model due out in 2019. Previewed by the I.D. hatchback at the 2016 Paris auto show, the EV is to feature a single electric motor developing 168 hp. Mounted within the rear axle assembly, it provides drive to the rear wheels.
The rear-mounted electric motor and rear-wheel-drive layout of the I.D. mirrors that of the original Beetle introduced in 1938, which used a rear-mounted boxer engine. Its adoption on a modern-day Beetle model could open up a number of packaging advantages not seen on today’s front-engine/front-wheel-drive model, including a front cargo compartment similar to that of the original.
Volkswagen resurrected the Beetle as a modern-day model in 1997 following positive reception to the retro-inspired Concept One show car revealed at the 1994 Detroit auto show. The first-generation modern-day model was produced at VW’s plant in Puebla, Mexico, until 2010, when it was succeeded by a second-generation model that remains on sale today.
Diess confirms to WardsAuto that the MEB platform is expected to support up to 15 new electric-powered models within the Volkswagen Group.