LE CASTELET, France -- Volkswagen's Microbus leisure van will keep its retro look after all.
Last May, VW executives said the company would not build a modern version of the 1960s-era icon based on the concept that was unveiled at the 2001 Detroit auto show.
The financially squeezed German automaker was worried that development costs would be too high to justify producing a van mainly aimed at the US market.
However, at the launch of the Golf GTI in Le Castelet, France, on October 3, VW executives revealed that the production version of the Microbus will keep its stubby nose -- a throwback to its beloved 1960s predecessor -- but will not have the rounded features seen on the concept vehicle.
VW will keep expenses down by adapting the Microbus' body so it can share modules with the VW T5 light commercial vehicle.
"It will also use a lot of T5 modules because a separate platform for the Microbus would not be cost efficient," Wilfried Bockelmann, VW design engineering head, told Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe.
Bockelmann says the Microbus will be ready in 2008.
Not a luxury Multivan
Another high-ranking VW executive says the vehicle now under development won't be just a luxury version of the Multivan, the minibus version of the T5.
"The Microbus will get its own unique body," he said.
The Multivan is more utilitarian, much like its predecessor, the Eurovan.
Styled in VW's California design studio especially for the US market, VW wants the car to be a hit with customers in Europe, too.
"VW [board members] feared that the Microbus in its original concept was too exclusively targeted toward the American market," said Christoph Stürmer, a Global Insight analyst based in Frankfurt.
VW wants to avoid a repeat of what happened with the New Beetle, which was a hit in the US but was never a top seller on this side of the Atlantic.
"The Microbus design will appeal more to European tastes," said a VW spokesman.
The Microbus, sometimes called the Bully in Europe, became a 1960s-era icon in the US, particularly in California where it remains synonymous with the laid-back surfer lifestyle.
Not so truck-like
Another key to the Microbus' success will be the relationship between VW's commercial vehicle division in Hanover, Germany, where the van will be built, and the parent company in Wolfsburg.
The Volkswagen Caddy Life, a light commercial vehicle based on the VW Golf, has faced media criticism because of its hard ride. It was developed and built by VW's commercial vehicle division.
A VW source said, "The commercial vehicle division must have a better understanding of the needs of buyers of the LCVs' passenger-car versions."