VW wants to become a culture icon again with the ID Buzz
Volkswagen hasn’t had the most adorable reputation lately. While it’s not the only brand to get caught up in the Dieselgate emissions scandal, its name was the first and one of the best known for conviction of executives. Then there was the whole weird thing a few months ago where she decided to improve her credentials by, uh, lying in a weird April Fool’s joke that seemed to get out of hand.
Sales haven’t been going well lately. VW’s current two percent share of the US market isn’t the lowest ever (it was around one percent in the 1980s), but it’s far from the brand’s heyday. Although the VW Group is experiencing a renaissance overall with Taycans and E-Trons, the brand of the same name remains rather unpopular. The New Auto strategy announced yesterday will attempt to reverse this with an “emotional” lead in the US market with the ID Buzz. Yes it is Really Event.
Herbert Diess, CEO of the entire VW Group, opened the new car presentation with a summary of where the Group is heading its brands. The focus is on autonomy, with buzzwords like the synergy of mechatronics to achieve production efficiency. But something he said early on caught my eye immediately.
With all the promises of Level 4 autonomy through 2026 and other things that feel a bit intangible, one thing was extremely clear: Volkswagen’s new strategy in the US isn’t led by the ID.4, its relatively pedestrian, serviceable crossover.
No, it’s about getting the US to love Volkswagen again. And Diess says that there is a very obvious vehicle for this: the converted VW campervan, reinterpreted, that is the ID Buzz. Introduced as a concept in 2017, it never hit the market, but VW confirmed last year that it will hopefully arrive by 2022.
The drive Diess asked in a subsequent Q&A session about the strategy announcement. Why was VW leading with such a niche vehicle when it was E-Trons and Taycans that conquered the US market?
He said it was about being loved again. “It’s a very emotional moment for me because when I was still responsible for the Volkswagen brand, I was very committed to this product.
“I think in the electrified world we need emotional products. And the most iconic product that we have in our entire product range is probably the Volkswagen bus.”
Diess’ plan is to instill nostalgia and real affection through something that only VW can offer, as opposed to weekly electric SUVs. “Americans are really bound [the VW bus] the lifestyle and experience and memories of the 70s. It really adds something to the brand that the competition doesn’t, and there are still so many memories in the United States. “
“It is a real shame that we have lost the US as a core market,” said Diess, referring to VW’s current position as a niche brand. Previously, in the early days of its arrival in the US, it was the largest overseas automaker.
“Basically [there was] Fall from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and we haven’t been able to regain momentum until now. Now we have a historic chance, “continued Diess.
He believes the electric future is to re-romanticize VW in the US. “I think with this electrification we can really give the Volkswagen brand a special head start that could come close to American buyers and probably their memories.
“We have a really exciting line-up for the coming United States, I think. ID.4 hits the streets and is well received, but an ID buzz, we have that experience in Pebble Beach.”
In 2017, VW got Magnus Walker to put a prototype of the ID Buzz on the road, which, according to Diess, “really caused an uproar” in US interests.
The relaunch for 2022 will be what VW is hoping to regain some trust – and joy – in its brand.
“I think the design will come very close to what people would expect from a remake of an ID Buzz. It will also contain some very nice features, so a very clear design,” assured Diess, emphasizing that this is in spite of the Delay is really happening now. “I think it can help, and I can promise it will come to the United States, I hope soon.
“It will be part of a new line of excitement that will include more electric cars that we are currently working on.”
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