Volkswagen AG is considering not only a modern version of its 1960s Microbus, but also a more conventional minivan for the USA.
At the Geneva auto show, VW unveiled its freshened Sharan minivan for the European market. But unlike typical US minivans with their dual sliding rear doors, the Sharan has four traditional doors.
'Definitely, I think there is room for a car like this in the US market,' said Jens Neumann, a Volkswagen AG board member in charge of North American strategy. But the 2001 Sharan was not designed with the USA in mind, he said. The next edition of the Sharan, due in about four years, could well be geared for US tastes.
In the meantime, VW will focus its attention on its sport-utility for the 2002 model year, and development of a New Beetle convertible is well under way, Neumann said.
VW also continues to consider the return of the Microbus. Just as the New Beetle has a rich heritage, so would the Microbus, Neumann said.
'The Microbus has a heritage, and not just for some odd hippies,' Neumann said. 'But we still must overcome the difficulties posed by the flat nose and US safety standards.'
In January, Neumann said that VW has tried three times to design a Microbus that would capture the flavor of the 1960s-era bus but wrapped in a modern package.
A future VW lineup in the USA could include a Microbus, Sharan minivan, redesigned EuroVan, sport-utility and Passat wagon, he said. The challenge is trying to figure out what combination will work, Neumann said.
VW will not bring an entry-level car from its Skoda or Seat brands to the USA, Neumann said. 'To establish a new brand, with its dealer network, spare parts and all the service things that ago along with it, is a very expensive thing,' he said.
With regard to prestige models, testing and development continue on the D1 luxury car that VW has planned for 2002.
'That needs to be a big hit,' Neumann said.