Volkswagen is done thinking small.
The German automaker recently announced the imminent death of the Beetle, the ionic car made famous by the 1959 Think Small advertising campaign. The current model of the Volkswagen Beetle will be the last. No future models are in production, and VW will retire the Beetle.
Frank Welsch, VW's head of research and development, confirmed the rumors at the Geneva Motor Show. "Two or three generations is enough now," Welsch told Autocar, a UK-based car magazine. Volkswagen has reimagined the compact car several times, "but you can't do it five times and have a new new new Beetle."
It's the end of an era. But the beginning of a new one, VW hopes. They're going all-in on re-imagining another iconic car, one that's even more popular as of late.
Enter the electric Volkswagen minibus.
Last fall, VW announced plans to put an all-electric Minibus into production, with the first model hitting the U.S. market in 2022. "The iconic car of the electric age must be a Volkswagen," VW boldly stated in a press release last fall. It boasts a compact exterior, roomy interior and a futuristic-sounding name: the I.D. Buzz. The design is inspired by the the original Type 1 Microbus and will be fully electric.
If this seems like an unusual move, then it's time to wise up to the #vanlife hashtag. Living life on the road out of a Volkswagen van is the new millennial American dream.
Here's how it works: Quit your job. Get rid of most of your worldly possessions and your apartment. Pack only the necessities into a retro VW minivan, and hit the road. Don't forget your wifi hotspot so you can Instagram your adventures. Lots of people work remotely. Why not do it in an old minivan?
"Vanlife is an aesthetic and a mentality and, people kept telling me, a 'movement,'" Rachel Monroe wrote when she profiled two of the biggest #vanlife celebrities in the The New Yorker last year. The van becomes a backdrop of an enviable, carefree way of life. Here's how Monroe describes the #vanlife movement:
Scroll through the images tagged #vanlife on Instagram and you'll see plenty of photos that don't have much to do with vehicles: starry skies, campfires, women in leggings doing yoga by the ocean. Like the best marketing terms, "vanlife" is both highly specific and expansive. It's a one-word life-style signifier that has come to evoke a number of contemporary trends: a renewed interest in the American road trip, a culture of hippie-inflected outdoorsiness, and a life free from the tyranny of a nine-to-five office job.
Despite the utterly mundane and sometimes downright stressful moments of #vanlife -- like frequent and very costly breakdowns because they are pretty old cars after all -- the dream has caught on. About 2.7 million Instagram posts have been hashtagged #vanlife.
Volkswagen is clearly hoping to stay top of mind (and top of Instagram feeds) by throwing its full energy into the I.D. Buzz. "People asked when production starts on the car," Welsch told Autocar, "so we decided to go that way. Better to have that than having five generations of a new Beetle." They've even circulating a new hashtag to generate buzz for the I.D. Buzz. #thebusisback