Nothing concrete as yet, but it looks promising.
Volkswagen, coming out of the wide-reaching Dieselgate emissions scandal, is a company firmly focused on a very much electric future for mobility. While companies like Lexus and Toyota hedge their bets on hydrogen, the German automotive conglomerate is investing heavily in battery-electric technology, and has already confirmed 5 new fully-electric models that’ll be deployed by 2022.
In this electric future, Volkswagen firmly believes that there’s a place for what it describes as “emotional” models, cars that have a place in the company’s history and maintains a resonance with its more nostalgic customers. We’ve already seen the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz get greenlit for production as global interest in the model has proven its profit potential, as well as how the ‘new Microbus’ utilises the flexibility of VW’s electric ‘MEB’ platform, so adapting that platform to a new Beetle would likely be little work.
Volkswagen boss Dr. Herbert Diess thinks that, with MEB, there could be a future for the Beetle yet, in comments he made to UK publication Autocar. In various markets, the Beetle is being culled due to lacklustre sales performance, along with models like the Scirocco coupe (that, like the Beetle, shares its platform with the far more popular Golf hatchback).
“The next decision on electric cars will be what kind of emotional concepts we need. 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. We have a good chance on the electric side [to explore emotional concepts]. You can do derivatives efficiently, because we have a very flexible platform. We can do nice things: Rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive.” — Dr. Herbert Diess, Board Chairman, Volkswagen
The mention of rear-wheel drive, which might strike some as odd, is rooted from the original shown of the ID hatchback at the 2016 Paris Motorshow. That car produced 125kW from a single electric motor powered on the rear axle, and size-wise, would be comparable to a future Beetle model. During the premiere of the ID hatch, it was said that the drive layout was reminiscent of the original Beetle back in 1939, that utilised a horizontally-opposed engine (a boxer, basically) mounted at the back, driving the axle beneath.
Utilising a rear-engined layout today would provide various benefits, like a more usable cargo area under the bonnet (as the present-day Beetle suffers from a rather shallow boot thanks to its interesting roofline).
The Beetle was reinvented in 1997 with the New Beetle, before being succeeded in 2010 by the model we’re familiar with today. The future of the Beetle, along with the other “emotional” model in the lineup, the Scirocco, has been hitherto unclear considering their disappointing reception worldwide. Dr. Diess, while providing plenty of hope that these cars may return to showrooms reinvented with electric powertrains, remained careful from saying anything conclusive, so we’re going to remain skeptical as to whether or not we’ll see another Beetle in the future. But we can be hopeful.