Volkswagen Bulli Concept Debuts at 2011 Geneva Auto Show

Volkswagen Bulli Concept Debuts at 2011 Geneva Auto Show

2011 Geneva Auto Show

2011 Geneva Auto Show

Just the Facts:
  • The electric Volkswagen Bulli Concept, another re-creation of the original Volkswagen Microbus, debuted at the 2011 Geneva Auto Show on Monday.
  • Volkswagen tells that there are no production plans for the electric minivan and no plans to bring it to the 2011 New York Auto Show.
  • The six-seat VW Bulli has a driving range of 186 miles.

GENEVA — Volkswagen unleashed a thunderbolt at the 2011 Geneva Auto Show, debuting the electric Volkswagen Bulli Concept, a post-modern and eco-friendly take on the original Volkswagen Microbus.

But American consumers who envision parking one in front of their beach house may be in for a wait.

"At this point, it's just a concept," said Corey Proffitt, Volkswagen of America spokesman in a phone conversation Monday with "There are no production plans. Based on the reaction, we'll see where it goes." When asked if the compact Volkswagen Bulli Concept will be shown at the upcoming 2011 New York Auto Show, Proffitt said "no plans."

Rumors have been rampant in the European press that VW is working on a latter-day Microbus for introduction in 2013-'14. The automaker previously showed a Microbus concept 10 years ago at the Detroit show, but later canceled production plans, reportedly because of cost considerations. Instead, VW commissioned a mildly revised derivative of the Dodge Caravan, which it sells in the U.S. as the VW Routan.

While similar conceptually to the 2001 Microbus, the Volkswagen Bulli Concept is edgier-looking than its predecessors, with angular horizontal headlights, muscular wheel arches and "infotainment control via iPad," said the automaker in a statement. The concept features a retro two-tone red-and-white exterior paint treatment, with an overall shape that will rekindle memories of the class VW van. The Bulli rides on a 102-inch wheelbase and is 66 inches tall.

The Bulli is equipped with an electric motor that generates 114 horsepower, along with a lithium-ion battery. VW said the Bulli has a range of 186 miles — surprisingly high versus most EVs. It accelerates from zero to 62 mph in 11.5 seconds and has a top speed of 87 mph.

In an intriguing footnote that seemed to hint at future production possibilities, the German automaker said that the concept "can also incorporate Volkswagen's extremely efficient gas and diesel direct-injection engines as alternative drives." It specifically noted that those engines have a 1.0- or 1.4-liter displacement.

The Bulli concept gets a single bench seat in the front and a Fender sound system. The removable iPad in the center console controls the Bluetooth hands-free telephone and a navigation system. VW noted that the Bulli lacks a tachometer and a conventional gearshift lever. It is replaced by a rotary switch to the right of the driver which is used to activate the gears.

As with the old VW van, the seat system can be "transformed into a large reclining surface with just a few manual movements" to turn it into "a compact camper."

Introduced in late 1949, the original VW Type 2 Transporter was based on the rear-engined chassis of the VW Beetle (Type 1). Over several decades, VW developed a wide number of variants on the same chassis, including a panel van, two- and four-door pickups, several campers and even an ambulance.

While the Type 2 was phased out of production in Germany in 1967, aging VW microbuses covered in flower decals and psychedelic paint have long since become pop-culture cliches linked to American hippies and the "Flower Power" movement of the '60s. says: A generation of Baby Boomers with fond memories of the old VW Microbus will undoubtedly say "build it." An electric version should have cross-generational appeal on top of it. — Anita and Paul Lienert, Correspondents

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