The ID Buggy will get a limited production run, but a regular Beetle isn't in the cards
Amid the supercars at the recent Geneva motor show, there was big buzz at the VW stand around a bright green electric dune buggy that we have since learned will go into production in limited volumes in about two years. We snagged some one-on-one time with Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen Group, to talk about everything from the buggy to pickups to ongoing partnership talks with Ford.
How production-ready is the ID Buggy?
This buggy is not yet production-ready, but it is an option. It is a possibility. We already have our important volume models in the pipeline, and a few months ago we decided on the electric bus, which adds an emotional but mono-volume-style car.
The ID Buzz microbus is officially greenlighted for production?
That’s all under construction, under design, all decided. All through the pipeline. Everything is locked in. The machine is working for 2022. So we have covered maybe 80 percent of our markets with electric cars and conventional cars. But Volkswagen is much more than just covering the segments. Volkswagen also has a huge emotional history. Not just the bus or the Beetle but the Karmann Ghia, the Thing in America or Kurierwagen as we called it here in Germany, or the Scirocco. The question was, “What should we do on the more emotional side?” And we decided on the Buggy because it was the most emotional or irrational product that you can imagine. It works well with an electric drivetrain. So we could do this car if we keep one-time spending low and one-time investment low. Mr. Schuh [Günther Schuh, CEO of German electric car startup e.Go Mobile, which will build the Buggy for VW] is a specialist in that.
Access to VW’s huge MEB electric car platform makes it possible for a contract manufacturer to build a niche vehicle like the ID Buggy?
It could make it possible because [Schuh] is smart in low tooling cost and fast-preparation production if we talk about 5,000 to 10,000 per year. So I think he could do the job.
The U.S. would be a main market?
Maybe we will take it to Pebble Beach. But we should test it in the U.S.
What will you make in the electric car plant you are building in Chattanooga?
We have decided to produce SUVs. It is too early to say which one right now.
Will we ever see an electric Beetle?
You can do such derivatives probably easier this way than on conventional platforms. That basically made the ID Buzz possible because with that platform you have the flat battery so you have a lot of design freedom. You can do many very emotional vehicles easier.
But Beetle is not in the product plan?
No. You have to do something emotional, but I think we can’t cover the historic lineup of Volkswagen with electric cars, and we shouldn’t.
Which ID electric cars will be sold in the U.S.?
All but the initial ID hatch because of the size and because hatches are a relatively small segment in the U.S., which is why we decided to offer it only in Europe and China.
Will we ever get the Arteon sedan in the U.S.?
Yes, we are working on that. This year, for sure.
How are partnership talks with Ford coming?
We are building up the relationship. I just drove last week the pickups, the [Ranger] platform that we will share and was really impressed with the capability of the product in the pipeline, so I am very positive on the Ford partnership. We still are working on enlarging it and doing more together, but it takes time.
What pickup makes sense for VW in the U.S.? Atlas-based or Ranger-based?
We have been discussing those options, but Ranger-based. The B-segment, Ranger-sized segment is growing fast worldwide, also in Indonesia, in Asia. In the U.S. it’s growing, which we didn’t expect, and also minor volumes in Europe, South Africa, Latin America, so we think together with Ford we can really make a difference.
Will you share your MEB electric car platform with Ford?
That’s also something we are talking about. They are interested. The talks are not slowing down at all.
Is VW investment in Ford’s Argo AI for autonomous driving still on the table?
Still on the table. They are top-level and we compared a lot. We would like that option. It’s a question of finalizing.