Volkswagen, whose Beetle was the platform for the first dune buggy, will show an electric version of an updated dune buggy at the Geneva auto show in March to gauge consumer interest in a production version.
The German automaker has reignited nostalgic passions with previous vehicles, bringing back the VW Bug as the New Beetle in 1998 after a hiatus.
More recently, as the automaker switches from an emphasis on diesel to a push to electrify much of its product line in coming years, it has scored a huge hit with potential customers with its ID Buzz concept – an electric update of the classic VW bus.
Adding an electric dune buggy might be just what the marketing department needs to spur interest in Volkswagen EVs.
VW calls the concept “the first fully electric version of a new dune buggy.”
The dune buggy wasn’t a VW invention – California engineer, surfer and boat builder Bruce Meyers gets credit for popularizing fat-tired, stripped-down buggies for roaring through sand dunes and across the beach.
But VW has always been closely associated: The original Meyers Manx buggy used a Volkswagen chassis and engine when it was launched as a kit car in 1964. The present-day Manx still is configured as a rear-engine buggy that favors VW underpinnings, although other engines and chassis can be used.
Volkswagen initially raised the possibility of an electric VW dune buggy late last year. Company insiders said at the time it was under consideration for production development.
Closer to reality
That consideration moves closer to reality as VW now says it will show a “one-of-a-kind” electric dune buggy concept at the upcoming Geneva show.
Concepts cars often are displayed first at auto shows to let automakers brag about upcoming design and technology features without having to link them to a particular model.
But when the concept is tied so tightly to a specific vehicle it’s a pretty good bet that what the carmaker really wants to do is to see how much consumer interest it can generate.
Volkswagen hasn’t released any specifics for the dune buggy concept, but said In December that it was considering it as part of the lineup in its new I.D. line of battery-electric vehicles.
The first, an I.D. hatchback, is slated to be introduced in Europe toward the end of this year. VW also has approved production of the I.D. Buzz and the I.D.Crozz crossover.
The Crozz is scheduled for U.S. introduction in 2020 and the Buzz by 2022. An ID Vizzion sedan also may be in the works for 2022. The hatchback isn’t slated for the U.S., and there isn’t likely to be any production decision announcement for an I.D. dune buggy until after the Geneva show.
The two-seat, open-wheel, soft-top electric dune buggy isn’t VW’s first flirtation with the idea of institutionalizing what Meyers first seized on: Fun can be had ripping most of the sheet metal off a lightweight vehicle and using it for desert raging and dune hopping.
Volkswagen showed a gasoline-engine dune buggy concept in 2011, its design an homage to the Meyers Manx.
The original Manx builder, B.F Meyers & Co., closed in 1971 but was reformed in 2000 as Meyers Manx Inc.
Today the San Diego County-based company sells everything from logo-bearing beanies to a variety of Manx body kits and complete rolling chassis.
The Manx kits still readily fit a stripped-down original VW bug chassis.