Volkswagen Bulli Concept
Volkswagen turned more than a few heads at the Geneva Auto Show recently with their Bulli concept. Some of those heads turned very slowly, looking through rose-colored Coke bottle glasses and fighting off paranoia, but they turned nonetheless. After a very short review period, Volkswagen announced this week that the all-electric van is headed for production.
It's an intriguing idea, as VW attempts to recapture the market that it practically invented almost 50 years ago. As cars like the Scion xB, Kia Soul and Nissan Cube and Juke have grown in popularity, it only makes sense for VW to throw their hat into the spacious eco-friendly market. A few weeks ago my friend was looking to buy a new car, and eventually decided on the Honda Element for two distinct reasons: Its plastic interior can literally be washed out during camping trips, and the simple fact that it's weird.
I immediately thought of him when the Bulli officially announced plans for production. Would it have fit his criteria? Certainly it's weird, with added nostalgia and more than a little notoriety. That must be worth something. But will it be as practical?
The original VW Microbus took the world by storm because, at its core, there wasn't much to it. You could use it as a family-mover with enough seats for the kids and dogs, or you could strip away everything and throw surfboards in the back, or you could cover it in shag carpeting and install a sweet disco ball. It was eccentric and easy to customize.
The Bulli will fit the bill as far as a comfortable, capable and maybe even eco-friendly van, but will it reach the hippies of our era: Hipsters?
Probably not, unless Volkswagen covers it in skinny jeans and an Urban Outfitters t-shirt. First off, hipsters have no money. Second, there's already plenty of entries in this market with the xB, Cube, Juke and Element. They come cheap, they make young people feel young, and they carry that all-important irony that defines the FAIL generation. There's something proud about cruising in an ugly car. I don't fit the status quo, or whatever.
Does the Bulli say that to you? Or is it played out before they even start production?
It seems to me to fit into some weird No Van's Land, probably a little too plush and expensive for the hipsters and a little too young for the family crowd. VW is pretty late to this market, but maybe that's the irony factor we're talking about, since it wouldn't exist without them in the first place.
However it plays out, the Bulli will probably need more than six seats. I need room for my lava lamp.