Saturday, January 9, 2016
Volkswagen's BUDD-e Is Great, But Is It Time To Just Bring Over the Camper Van?
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 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.