It might not always seem like Volkswagen has a firm grasp of what it wants to do here in the U.S., but board member for development Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser has a plan to change that. He gave us the low-down on VW’s definitive upcoming product plans—like some funky Beetle variants, VWs’s three-row crossover, and the next Tiguan—as well as a few still-uncertain possibilities. Dream big VW fans, because the future could hold a new electric-powered Microbus and the much-hyped Golf R 400.
Despite reports that VW will kill off the Beetle after this generation, Neusser says otherwise: “[The Beetle] is iconic and has a historical background. We think we can do much more with this car.” What exactly will happen to the Beetle will be determined once it switches over to the MQB platform by 2018. Along with the platform jump, we could also see a hybrid or EV Beetle come into play. To show they’re not pussyfooting around the integration of alternative powertrains, VW had a Beetle Hybrid prototype on hand with the Jetta Hybrid’s system at work.
As far as the Beetle’s look, “It will remain an emotional and design-driven model,” said U.S. vice president for product marketing and strategy Jeorg Sommer.
A modern version of VW’s other historical icon, the Microbus, is still being considered and developed, but there are challenges aplenty to overcome. “To identify the genetic things of the microbus you have to look for a very small space between the A-pillar and the front end of the car,” explained Neusser. “Otherwise the hood is too long and it doesn’t look like a Microbus.” If that familiar short hood is necessary for the Microbus to be emotional and recognizable, it presents difficulties given the tools and architecture VW has at its disposal.
“[The] technical architecture of the Microbus, with its rear engine, is not anymore fitted to what we are doing with our mainstream architecture where we have the greatest flexibility of different powertrains. So we are actually thinking about how we can take all of the advantages of MQB and put it into a Microbus genetic code.” Possible solutions might be a rear- or front-mounted electric motor, which even if they necessitate a long-range battery, wouldn’t be incompatible with the Microbus’ elevated ride height. Up front, VW wouldn’t have to worry about anything other than crash safety.
From the looks of it, VW is balancing its heritage and niche performance vehicles with what it thinks Americans will definitely buy—crossovers. The question is whether they can fight those battles at the same time, without losing both.