Saturday, January 9, 2016

Volkswagen's BUDD-e Is Great, But Is It Time To Just Bring Over the Camper Van?

Volkswagen BUDD-e

Volkswagen unveiled its BUDD-e electric concept at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) this week. It's fantastic. The looks are ideal for a redo of the iconic VW microbus. It's got a ton of tech. It's got an outstanding interior. In fact, it's enough to make you almost forget about the whole diesel debacle. I understand the BUDD-e concept isn't going to be the next Westfalia adventure vehicle, but what if VW offered a version that is?

When the New Beetle came out in the late 1990s, it was a smash hit. And if VW needs something right now, it's a runaway success—but it isn't going to be an EV. It might be a Westfalia.

VW Camper Van in field

VW still makes a Camper Van and sells it outside of North America (see above), so it's not like this is some totally foreign concept. I mean, the damn thing exists! However, North America isn't getting it. Nein!

If you've recently looked on craigslist at the price of semi-modern VW camper vans, you're undoubtedly familiar with the exorbitant amounts of greenbacks people want for them. And why is that? Perhaps because you cannot buy a new one. And with the increasing popularity of overlanding and fancy-pants car camping (guilty as charged ...), perhaps now is the time for Volkswagen—or any automaker, really—to come out with a hard-sided vehicle with a camper package. Oh, and for God's sake—give us an AWD/4WD option so we can actually make it out of the parking lot and into the hills.

But until (or if) that happens, compact camper van owners will still be able to ask $14,000 for a 25 year old Mitsubishi Delica, $19,000 for a beat 32 year old VW Vanagon, and $35,000+ for VW Syncro vans. Yes, I just saw examples on Portland's craigslist. All three of these vehicles combined, by the way, have a total zero airbags.

Volkswagen needs to make people forget about its diesel problem. I think coming out with a new version of the VW Van/Microbus/Westfalia would be a great distraction. Sure, go ahead and offer up an EV version, like the BUDD-e. But don't limit the audience. Offer up agas version with 4MOTION AWD, a pop-top, and a bed. I have a feeling people would start to forget about that little TDI incident, and think about their next camping adventure.


Paul said...

4-Motion California would smoke MB, Ford, Dodge ( campervan sales. I also think outfitter/upfitters (SMB, Quigley, Tiger..) would see lost sales also. Would you sell a car to daily drive A)118" wheelbase van that fits in parking garages B)130+ wheelbase that fits...

I'm a subcompact kind of guy so you can read into my bias. When MB did away with the 118 Sprinter I felt a bit depressed, even in 2wd form.

It is time to bring over the camper van. And with a twin turbo TDi, you can always tow a Dinoot for that JIC scenario. (sigh)

Dissident Gene said...

Yes. I am starting a savings account this month to buy the Budd-e in 2020 and intend to convert it into a camper and live out of it. I was heartbroken that the California is not available here (I'm in Oregon) but I wouldn't be able to afford it til 2020 anyway.