VW Ponders Dune Buggies and an Electric Thing

Electrification makes it easy for Volkswagen to revive some blasts from the past.

Over the years there have been some very unusual Volkswagens. Some of them are kit cars like the Meyers Manx dune buggy or the Smyth Performance ute. Others came straight out of the factory, from the curvaceous Karmann Ghia to the blocky Thing. VW brand boss Herbert Diess told Car & Driver last week that he’s interested in bringing back some of these vehicles in a new electric form.

Some such models, such as the Microbus and I.D. Buzz, have already been confirmed for production, proving that VW is willing to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to new electric models that are quite different from its current offerings such as the Golf and Jetta. Interestingly, VW’s new MEB platform, which will underpin all new electric models, actually makes it easier to build whatever type of car VW wants on top of it due to its extreme flexibility in design.

“MEB is flexible—rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive—and we have so many emotional concepts,” Diess told Car & Driver. “I don’t know if you remember the Kübelwagen. This Thing is a nice car. Then there are all the buggies, the kit cars. We have the bus. We have the various derivatives of the bus. We have so many exciting concepts in our history that we don’t have to do a Beetle.”

The Type 82 Kübelwagen from World War II., Justin Hughes

The original Kübelwagen was Germany’s answer to the American Jeep in World War II. The Thing that we briefly got in America was based on the Type 181 built for the West German military from 1968 to 1983.

A modern Thing or Kübelwagen would give VW a unique retro off-road offering with a toughness the Atlas and Tiguan don’t have. If provided with some genuine off-road capabilities—or if the aftermarket provides them—it has the potential to do extremely well in the dirt. Electric motors provide extremely high torque at low speeds, which is also where they are much more efficient than gasoline engines.

While sales of the current Beetle are lukewarm, Diess seems to believe that all new models like an electric Thing are a better way for VW to go than to electrify the Beetle sooner rather than later. There is no word as to whether a ute will be one of those models, but we can hope.

You can take a closer look at the original Volkswagen Thing here.