VW Minibus: The past, the present, and the future

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Throughout the years there have been many iconic vehicles. You can probably name a few right now. But what is more iconic than an automobile that is a symbol of an entire culture? The VW Minibus has won the hearts of many, and its legacy remains strong.

The Volkswagen Type 2 is a special vehicle. It has been in production for about 70 years now, with no signs of stopping. Why though? What makes it such a desired machine? Together we will learn a bit more about this interesting auto. With its peculiar history and even more intriguing future, we are up for an entertaining ride. Are you ready?

How the VW Minibus came to be

Even though this vehicle is now an emblematic piece of German engineering, its origins are rather rocky. Why? Because Volkswagen had another car to manufacture and their resources supposedly could not handle a second model. So much so that they were already at full capacity when the Minibus idea was brought to the table.

The culprit for this was the VW Type 1. Or as you likely know it – Volkswagen Beetle. It was the company’s only vehicle by the time and their expansion plans were not ambitious. After all, post-WWII Germany was not the best place for business endeavors.

That being said, VW saw the potential in an affordable bigger vehicle. It could appeal to businesses and families alike. Plus the initial design was partly based on the Beetle, so some of the work had already been done. That is why by the end of 1947 the company had ordered the first Type 2 prototypes as soon as their production line could handle it.

Funny enough, it turned out that the Minibus could not use much of the Beetle’s design. It needed several refinements before it was ready for commercial release. Nonetheless, with the release of the Citroen H Van, Volkswagen had to step up their game. Thus on November 12th, 1949 the first Type 2 came off the assembly line. But did it achieve the projected success?

Going mainstream or just filling a niche?

During the first year of production, VW managed to get more than 9,500 Type 2’s out of the factory. Of course, this was nowhere near the numbers of the Beetle, but it was still a good starting point.

Soon other car manufacturers also saw the potential of the VW Minibus and the Citroen H Van. Year by year the demand was growing and similar vehicles started popping up. In 1953 Ford released their first Transit, and several years later came the Renault Estafette.

However, these minibusses were still not at the peak of their popularity. While the Beetle reached 1 million units by 1955, the Type 2 was a fair bit behind. That is not to say that people didn’t see its utility though. The thing is that a “big family vehicle” was not exactly a selling proposition… yet.

The counterculture that fed the machine

The real success of the VW Minibus began in the 1960’s. By that time it had become an established model but was still not on the frontlines. That all changed when the hippie culture discovered its amazing utility.

The followers of this counterculture had embraced the freedom lifestyle. They wanted to denounce the control of the establishment, which largely meant giving up the endless rat race. Of course, because of that, the movement was not exactly rich. So how do you organize people who cannot afford personal vehicles? You get them a cheaper alternative!

Some members of the hippie movement opted for the cheap Beetle. However, the VW Minibus was the actual easy choice. A few folks could pitch in to buy a single vehicle and then take their friends with them.

That being said, there is a good question to ask here – why the VW? They could have chosen any of the competitor models, could they not? What made the Minibus better? Quite a lot of things, as it turns out.

VW offered the automobile on the cheap. That was also extended to its maintenance and replacement parts. It did not hurt that its repairs were fairly simple too. Oh, did I mention it also looks cute? Put all that together and you have a recipe for success, as far as the hippies are concerned. That is how in a rather humorous turn of events the counterculture made an entire business bloom. But that is history now. Where is the VW Minibus today?

How appealing is the VW Minibus nowadays?

I cannot lie, the Type 2 is perhaps one of my favorite vehicles. Although I do not care much about the hippie movement, vintage cars are my thing. However, the more recent generations of the Minibus are not… up to par, I would say.

With the 3rd generation, things started going bad. It was not technically worse, but it did not even resemble its previous iteration. The new boxy design was more spacious but less appealing. And there was no culture to back it up this time around.

During the years that followed the now-called Transporter (EU) or Eurovan (the US, ironically) faded away from the spotlight. It became more of a workhorse and less of a “people’s vehicle”. With the 5th generation it died in the US completely, but had its niche in Europe. There even was a luxury trim to target the high-end business segment, yet it fell under the radar as well.

Here is an interesting side note though. Even if the current gen Minibus is not exactly crushing the charts, the first and second generations are still sought after. Actually, in 2016 we from Corsia Logistics helped with a VW Type 2 car shipping. That was one particularly wonderful model.

VW minibus

But I get you. That is all in the past, right? The fact remains that nowadays the Minibus model has lost its former spirit. Though I would argue that change is still good and necessary. Plus I know something special about the Minibus that will soon become reality. Want to know what that is?

What does the future hold for the VW Minibus?

Volkswagen is aware that people are no longer that fond of their minibus. They understand that the glory of the Type 2 has been gone for years. However, they have not been sitting idle for all that time!

In 2022 we are about to enjoy the future of the Minibus. The so-called “I.D. Buzz” will come to us with a design largely inspired by the old Type 2. Its rounded cutesy features are back, but that is not all. It is going to be an electric vehicle with easy to replace modules. These are supposed to promote longer life for the entire vehicle, as well as cheap maintenance overall.

At this point, we do not know much more about the I.D. Buzz. It will definitely come in many different variants and will supposedly be the first in a new line of “modular” vehicles. Will it be a success? Only time will tell. Though I guess it shows a trend since Tesla and a few other companies are coming up with modular designs too.

Honestly, though, I cannot hold it in. I just want to scream “The minibus is back, baby!” Well, it is not the old vintage-looking thingy, but at least it is a worthy successor. We have a cute-looking, smallish minibus to look forward to. Isn’t that awesome?

Does the VW Minibus appeal to you?

Obviously, this vehicle has been through quite the change. From a somewhat cutesy vehicle to a machine of the future. I honestly do not know which one I would prefer. The middle Minibus generations (from the third to the fifth) are largely unappealing to me. However, I would love to have an oldie Type 2 around. Yet the next gen also seems awesome.

Which one would you want? Do you prefer to go for a hippie machine or a rather more futuristic van? Whatever you choose, we from Corsia Logistics can help you with auto transport if you prefer to buy it out of state. Plus with our classic car shipping you know that your first gen Type 2 will be in safe hands and receive the white-glove service it deserves.

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About the Author:

Atanas Nikolov is a creative with an affinity for psychology and science. He believes the universe is a wonderful place to explore, and no universe is greater than the one inside ourselves. He enjoys a good debate, and can always bring an alternative viewpoint to the table. He also loves reading fiction and poetry. It is highly likely that he writes some as well, but these rumors have not been proven yet.
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