GENEVA - The Volkswagen Microbus concept, unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January, is undergoing some changes, as potential buyers weigh in with their opinions.
Volkswagen AG also displayed the Microbus concept in Geneva. Its next stop will be the Frankfurt auto show in September. After that, VW will consider whether to put the concept - a modern minivan that captures design elements of the original Bus - into production.
VW is using public reaction to help it decide whether the concept goes into production. The automaker has changed the interior, said Jens Neumann, a member of the Volkswagen AG board of management. 'People were telling us that the interior was too austere,' he said. 'So we added some warmth and versatility to the interior.'
VW installed softer, larger seats with different fabric, he said. 'The seats we initially featured in the Microbus were like dental chairs,' Neumann said. Also, VW has made the third-row bench seat removable.
The decision to produce the Microbus likely will be as contentious as the decision to produce the New Beetle. There were many debates within Volkswagen about whether the New Beetle should be brought to market. Some within VW thought it was a throwback to an era when the company really had only one viable product.
But the New Beetle was introduced in spring 1998 in the United States, and 'Beetlemania' erupted. More than 80,000 New Beetles were sold in the United States during 1999 and 2000. VW expects to sell between 70,000 and 80,000 New Beetles in the United States this year.
The automaker will exhibit a different version of the Microbus concept at the Frankfurt show, Neumann said. Although he would not elaborate, the Microbus was shown in Detroit with several small models. The variations included the Microbus with a pickup bed, a pop-up camper roof and a sport-utility.