The 2009 Volkswagen Bus is VW's way of saying, "If you can't beat 'me, join 'me." After decades of swimming upstream, the 2009 Volkswagen Bus places VW in the minivan mainstream.
The 2009 Volkswagen Bus is built, literally, on the most successful minivan heritage of all time. It uses the chassis, running gear, powertrains, and general structure of the newest Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, but with a VW twist to styling and materials.
The 2009 Volkswagen Bus was scheduled to go on sale during 2008. No pictures of the 2009 Volkswagen Bus were available in time for this report, but it is not likely to look much like the boxy Dodge and Chrysler minivans that were redesigned for the 2008 model year
"When I saw the styling of the vehicle it is quite distinctive and Volkswageny," Trevor Creed, Chrysler group senior vice president of design told the trade paper Automotive News. "And they have done their own interior as well."
Added Creed: "All of their sheet metal is unique. All of their glass is the same. That is the big economy of scale in doing it."
To control costs, the 2009 Volkswagen Bus will almost certainly retain the Grand Caravan's 121.1-inch wheelbase, among the longest in the minivan class. The Dodge and Chrysler minivans come only with front-wheel drive and a choice of three V-6 engines, ranging from 175 to 251 horsepower. VW was mum on the engine lineup for the 2009 Volkswagen Bus, and also on whether it would offer all-wheel drive.
Volkswagen sources said the 2009 Volkswagen Bus would have seven seats, but would not confirm whether it would also offer the Stow 'n Go or the Swivel 'n Go setups available on the Dodge and Chrysler, at least not initially.
Stow 'n Go enables the second and third-row seats to fold into the floor, and the Swivel 'n Go allows face-to-face seating for the second and third rows, with a fold-out table in between. Swivel 'n Go, in fact, harkens back to seating available on Vanagon and EuroVan versions of the Volkswagen Bus. VW sources did confirm that cabin materials would be more upscale than those on the Chrysler models.
Basing the 2009 Volkswagen Bus on a Chrysler platform might rankle the most committed Volkswagen Bus loyalists. But at least it insures Americans will be able to buy a 2009 Volkswagen Bus.
Any future for the Volkswagen Bus was quite uncertain after VW shelved plans to offer American buyers anything like the charming Microbus concept unveiled at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
That retro design captured the rounded forms of the beloved pre-1980 Volkswagen Bus, and seemed destined for production. VW deflated that plan in May 2004, announcing that something like the Microbus might be offered for European and Asian markets, but not for the U.S.
The flip-flop seemed typical of the twists and turns that make up the story of the Volkswagen Bus. The original people mover was always easy to like, but seldom had it easy in a world too busy to appreciate its laid-back approach to moving people.