Contrary to media reports, VW isn’t bringing back the Microbus – just as it never brought back the Beetle, either.
It did bring back a car that looked like the Beetle, back in the late’ 90s. But that’s about all it had in common with the Beetle people remembered from the ‘70s, which was the last time VW sold the real – as opposed to “new” – Beetle here in the U.S. (VW was able to continue selling the real Beetle for another 30 years in Mexico, where people were freer to buy the kinds of cars they wanted to buy – as opposed to here, where people are free to buy the cars government allows them to buy.)
The car that looked like a Beetle but which was really a re-bodied Golf sold ok at first and then not so well, after awhile. Probably – at first – because it brought back memories of a car so many people wished they could still buy but weren’t allowed to anymore. Then not not so well, once people became aware of what the new car was – and wasn’t. It may have kinda-sorta looked like the car they remembered but unlike that car, it wasn’t simple or inexpensive to repair, yourself. Like the Golf it was underneath its Beetle-looking skin, it was a complex, expensive package of computer-controlled components beyond the tool set of most latter-day Hippies equipped with just a screwdriver and a crescent wrench.
Now comes a vehicle that is meant to look like the old Microbus of the ‘60s and ‘70s – which was a re-bodied Beetle. This new vehicle isn’t, of course, because there isn’t a Beetle available to re-body – even in Mexico, which has caught up to the United States and also forbids Mexicans from buying cars like the original – the real as opposed to “new” – Beetle.
It is not legally allowed in either country to build a car like the real Beetle – or the Microbus it was based upon. Such vehicles are not “safe,” according to the government – notwithstanding the millions of people who weren’t killed by the real Beetles (and Microbuses) they owned, kind of like the bug that’s no longer in the news all-of-sudden that for two years was used as the excuse to not allow people to do anything. In fact, far fewer than the 99.8 percent who weren’t killed by the bug that’s no longer au currant were killed by the other Bug, but nevermind. The thing lacked six or even any air bags, didn’t have a back-up camera or “advanced” driver “assistance” electronics – which is partially how government defines “safe” in these latter days.
And – the big one – its pushmower-simple air-cooled engine that a Hippie or anyone else with a screwdriver and a crescent wrench could keep going couldn’t get past the emissions regs of the late ‘70s. Forget today’s regs, which insist on essentially “zero emissions” even though nearly zero-emissions ought to satisfy anyone who thinks solving the air pollution problem is sufficient – as opposed to solving problems that aren’t existent.
This is why the vehicle that looks like the old Microbus, the 2024 ID.Buzz, is electric, which is considered to be “zero emissions,” at least for the moment. In another moment, it will be discovered that utility plants aren’t “zero emissions” and neither are the industrial mining operations that scrounge the raw materials from the earth which are then made into enormous battery packs full of very environmentally unfriendy materials.
But nevermind that, for the moment.
The ID.Buzz (get it? say it again. . . Buzz . . . Bus) does have one thing in common with its kinda-sorta namesake. It is rear-wheel-drive, something VW hasn’t offered since it last offered real-deal Beetles and their various iterations back in the ’70s, here. But that is where the functional – and economic – commonalities end.
Word is the Buzz-bus will sticker for about $40,000 – to start. Closer to $60k, loaded. Perhaps a few aging Hippies who traded in their corduroy bell bottoms for a corporate suit, back in the ’70s, have enough money, man, to afford this Buzz. But for the youth of today, it’s a buzz-kill because no matter how indoctrinated they may be in the tenets of the Cult of Climate Change Abiding, not many young folk can afford to spend $40,000 (to start) on a car.
Or a bus, for that matter.
The affordability problem is arguably a larger problem than the EV-specific problems of abbreviated range and extended recharge times because even if the latter two problems were solved – even if an EV could travel the 300-plus miles that any non-electric car can easily travel and be recharged in the less than five minutes it takes to refuel any non-electric car – it won’t matter if people can’t afford it. A personal jet would be nice, too. How many have one of those?
The difference is the same.
Back in ’77, you could buy a real-deal Microbus for just over $5k, which amounts to about $24k today. The Buzz is expected to cost almost twice that, to start. Which is a buzzkill for people who haven’t got that kind of money, man. Which is likely to be more people, given that our money is being made worth less almost every day, by the Man.
People like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg say people worried about the high gas prices caused by the (old) Man can buy a vehicle like the Buzz to not have to worry about it. They only have to worry about how to pay for the vehicle. Plus, the electricity – which isn’t going to cost less as demand goes up while supply goes down, also because of the (old) Man, who has done all he can to reduce generating capacity.
Nevermind that, too.
On the upside, the Buzz is roomy – because it’s shaped like the old Microbus. This being the ideal kind of shape for an electric anything, because it allows for the huge pack of batteries to be hidden under the floor rather than take up space in the trunk. And it will reportedly have about four times as much power as the model its shape is meant to recollect – which it will need, on account of the 1,000-plus pounds of batteries it has to haul around.
No doubt it will have amenities that were rare to nonexistent in the old Microbus, including AC (which was a problem in the old Beetle-derived units because the engine had enough trouble just moving the vehicle and adding AC made that even harder, which tended to make the engine overheat, too).
And it will, of course, recall fond memories of the original via simulacrum features such as fold-out tables and – just maybe – a camper-style pop top and sink/’fridge combo. All very nice and none of it very affordable, which was perhaps the defining essence of the real Microbus.
Like the real – as opposed to “new” – Beetle, it was a bus for practically anyone, which is what it made it so practical. Sure, it was slow – but so? It got you there, which was once regarded as the main point of a vehicle. Especially for people who would otherwise be walking (or taking the bus) there.
Of course, VW isn’t allowed to build cars like the real Beetle – or the bus – anymore. And that’s the real Buzzkill.
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