Volkswagen Beetle fans rejoice: it's not coming back

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How could a modern-spec electric car ever adhere to the spirit of the original Beetle?

An electric new-age Beetle wouldn’t fit the mould of the original, so it’s reassuring that a retro revival is off the cards

As a die-hard classic Volkswagen Beetle enthusiast and owner, I couldn’t be more pleased that the name won’t return any time soon.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of the Volkswagen ID Buzz, which strikes a neat balance between paying homage to its 1950s spiritual forebear and embracing new-age EV design cues. But it’s reassuring to hear that Thomas Schäfer’s battle plan doesn’t revolve exclusively around similarly conceived retro revivals. 

Volkswagen CEO rules out Beetle revival as retro is “a dead end”

That’s in part because it means Volkswagen won’t come in for the inevitable social media firestorm that always meets such decisions. “It’s nothing like the original!” keyboard warriors type furiously when a ‘spiritual successor’ to a revered ’60s or ’70s icon is revealed. “How can you call it that?!” they gasp, exasperated. 

For proof of this, look no further than the reaction to the recent news that Ford plans to revive the fan-favourite Capri as an electric five-door crossover based on a Volkswagen Group architecture… Hardly a warm reception.

But it’s also a relief because tapping into the spirit of the original Beetle would be all but impossible in the modern era, as we know from the two cooly received, Golf-based Beetles that Volkswagen launched in the years following the original’s demise. 

The MEB platform would at least allow for a new-age Beetle to be more authentic in its conception: rear-wheel drive, flat floor, boot at the front, etc. But this is a model name associated with utter no-frills family motoring, intrinsically linked with connotations of durability and dependability and, above all, charm. 

It’s hard to imagine any new EV, no matter how compact, thoughtfully designed or competitively priced, adhering rigidly to those same values.

Look at the Fiat 500 and Mini Electric: these are luxury products that nod only loosely to their 1950s forebears (both close rivals for the Beetle in their day), and while they’re remarkably well engineered and easy on the eye, it’s their abandonment of the utilitarian principles that underpinned those diddy originals that has won them such acclaim.

Volkswagen is indeed developing a cheery and (relatively) cheap family city car for the electric era, but as a contemporarily styled EV replacement for the Polo, rather than a retro-inspired Beetle-alike. That’s good news for anyone who values substance over style and means the long and colourful Beetle backstory can remain a chapter in Volkswagen’s history, rather than a weight around its neck as the company chases its bold electric future. 

Source: Autocar

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