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It's time for Volkswagen to build its modern Microbus

Of all the new models and concept cars unveiled today at the Geneva auto show, none stood out quite as well as the latest Volkswagen Microbus concept.

"Tell Dr. Winterkorn when you see him," said VW styling director Klaus Bischoff, referring to the CEO of the VW Group who would need to be on board for VW to turn this concept into a real production model.

This should not be a tough call for Wintekorn. VW has been hemming and hawing about a making a modern Microbus for at least 10 years. Yes, a decade ago Volkswagen hinted at a return of the iconic Microbus, only to cancel the project. There was even a highly popular concept shown at the Detroit auto show. Nothing came of it, however.

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The latest Microbus concept - with an electric drive train and seating for six - has the makings of a sales success. As an EV, this Microbus - known as the Bulli in Europe - has a range of about 300 km its 40-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. The battery pack is sandwiched in the floor of the van and could be recharged in less than an hour, VW says - if you use an "electric refuelling station" designed for EVs.

The EV angle is good, but VW must also build versions with diesel, gasoline and hybrid power trains. It will be a hit. The engine compartment can hold a small gasoline or diesel engine, VW says, so what's the holdup?

Certainly not styling. The concept makes use of heritage design cues such as a large, round, chrome VW emblem on its nose. This latest Microbus is a bit shorter and wider than the original and it doesn't stand as tall, either. The thing is, it's far better looking than anything VW built and sold in the 1950s and 1960s, the heyday of the original.

I also like the two-tone paint scheme, though I think it's a mistake to go with two conventional rear doors, rather than sliding doors.

Inside, the Microbus concept seats six people with two bench seats. The front bench seat is split so that the centre and passenger positions can fold flat. And the rear bench seat can be folded and stowed to increase cargo room. Or the bench seats can be flattened to create a bed.

On the high tech side of things, a docking station in the centre of the instrument panel holds an iPad and it can be operated through steering-wheel controls and gauges.

All in all, then, a modern Microbus. Build it, VW.

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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