VW Trademarks ‘E-Thing’ for Possible Electric Revival of the… Thing

An agile electric off-roader surely doesn’t sound bad. Does it?

byJames Gilboy|
Electric Vehicles photo


Designed with extreme modularity in mind, the MEB electric vehicle platform will allow Volkswagen to make money building any sort of EV it wants—with the exception of the joyous ID.Buggy concept, of course, which VW says it'll leave to the aftermarket to realize. However, a recent trademark filing suggests we might get an equally novel electric off-roader as a stand-in, possibly one based on the military vehicle we Americans knew as the Volkswagen Thing.

On Aug. 31, VW filed with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) for the rights to the name "E-Thing" as relating to land vehicles. This moniker references the VW Type 181; a small, all-terrain vehicle that served with the West German military.

Volkswagen Thing, Volkswagen

It utilized a pan from the Karmann Ghia and a powertrain from the Beetle, though one with portal axle-style hubs to increase ground clearance. Party pieces included removable doors, a fold-down windshield, and of course, a convertible roof, giving it an open-air driving experience like that of the original Jeep, the Willys MB. And like the Willys before it, and the AM General HMMWV and Toyota Mega Cruiser since, the Type 181 generated interest from civilians, prompting VW to offer it to the public across the globe, the Americas included. North of the Mexico border, it was called the Thing, and south, the Safari.

With the Type 181's most notable features like removable doors coming back in vogue on modern off-roaders like the 2021 Ford Bronco, now could be the perfect time for VW to bring back the Thing. Not only would it ride the wave of interest in these novel features, but it'd face little competition in the field of small, electric off-roaders.

Volkswagen Thing, Volkswagen

This, however, does not look to be VW's most likely plan for the E-Thing name. So far, VW has prefixed all future (or possible future) electric models with ID; its EV sub-brand designation. As of late, VW has only applied the E- prefix to classic cars converted to electric drive, notably the E-Käfer electric Beetle and E-Bulli electric microbus. Also, it's safe to say that any future Thing, EV or not, will not be a twist on a military application. 

Odds are the E-Thing name will end up on another electrified classic in their same vein—though it should be more than apparent to VW that a modern, MEB-based take on the Thing would be welcomed with open arms.

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