Volkswagen has long been associated with quirky and eccentric vehicles, but none of them are as burned into the collective automotive consciousness as is the Beetle. Part of the charm and wide appeal of the original air-cooled, rear-engined Bug was its status as a versatile little machine, easy to work on and modify. One of the mutant types Beetles morphed into became broadly defined as the dune buggy, the most famous being the Meyers Manx—which became a legend in its own right.
Fast forward a handful of decades to the 2019 Geneva auto show. VW has dipped into that rich heritage to create new-generation dune-running machine that’s riding on a massive piece of VW’s future known as its MEB small-car electric-vehicle platform. Known officially as the Volkswagen ID Buggy Concept, the vehicle revealed in Geneva is planned for production, sans doors, roof, and all. It’s a machine that Volkswagen design chief Klaus Bischoff could have only dreamed about doing decades earlier. According to Bischoff, because the Buggy is built off of the MEB bones, it allows his team more freedom of form, because as he put it, “the engine is out of the game.”
Maybe the engine, but not the power. The Buggy has an estimated output of 201 horsepower from its rear-mounted electric motor, fed juice by a 62-kWh lithium-ion battery pack lining the floor between the wheels. Expected range is 155 miles to a charge, more than enough to get to some local dunes or beaches with drive-over access.
We had chance to walk around the ID Buggy with Bischoff while the vehicle was on the show stand, and we learned a few tidbits about what should be a very intriguing machine when it hits the market in roughly two years or so. Here’s what we found out:
The production model will not have doors or a roof. Bischoff says that there will be no real obstacles to getting the vehicle approved for the U.S. market very much as it looks today. As long as it has seatbelts and a rollover-protection system, which it does, Bischoff says it will be able to pass U.S. safety standards and be road-legal. Not having an engine up front will also help the Buggy’s cause when it comes to frontal crash testing.
Ok, it will sort of have a roof. There are hooks near the top of the roll bar that will allow for a canvas cover to be added, but Bischoff wasn’t really a fan and basically called out anyone who would actually use it as, to put it more gently, not a customer who embodies the spirit of the vehicle.
Rear or all-wheel drive will be possible. The Buggy concept has only one electric motor at the rear, but Bischoff said it could be easily modified to add a motor to power the front wheels as well. We’re betting both versions will be made available to customers because of the added power and traction benefits.
You can hose it out. Bischoff pointed to some holes in the body shell that will allow drivers to wash their Buggy out after a day spent getting it sandy and muddy. The two seats are upholstered in a moisture-repellant fabric, while a sealable center stowage/speaker area is designed to keep your phone and other critical gear safe from the elements. There is also a sizable storage area behind the front seats. Yes, you could sit on this area. No, it wouldn’t be legal if you did while the Buggy was in motion.
It will probably be light (for an EV). While the exact weight wasn’t divulged, the body shell will be a lightweight thermoplastic resin (the concept’s is carbon composite). There’s not much else to it other than the MEB platform, motor, and battery pack; the suspension and wheels; and powertrain control components. We’re betting it will fall somewhere in the 3,500-pound range.
It will be recyclable. Bischoff pointed out that much of the vehicle could be easily be replaced and recycled as necessary. Smack up your thermoplastic body shell? No worries, just pull it off and use it to help make a new one.
Pause, start. The interior is very simple in form, with just a small gauge cluster placed right behind the steering wheel. The Buggy concept’s two pedals are cleverly decorated with a pause sign on the one for the brakes and a start button on the accelerator.
It will be “attainably priced.” Pressed on what that meant, Bischoff would only say that it “won’t be a car for millionaires.” Our educated guess would be somewhere in the $50,000 to $70,000 range. Bischoff added that while volume would likely be flexible, he envisions about 5,000 a year will be produced at the outset.
It won’t be built completely by Volkswagen. While it will roll on MEB underpinnings and will more or less be a Volkswagen, final assembly will reportedly be handled by German company e.GO Mobile, a low-volume producer of EVs. Volkswagen has recently announced its intention to license the MEB platform, and having e.GO—the first company to sign up to use the architecture—manufacture the Buggy would make sense given its unique body shell and other componentry, which would likely be hard to integrate into one of VW’s volume manufacturing lines.