Every year, my neighbor knows spring is almost here because he sees me lying under my 24-year-old VW Vanagon looking for the latest leak from my “wasserboxer” engine.
It’s like Groundhog Day. If the thing starts, spring comes early. If not, we’re all one mail-order part away from warmer weather. So when that VW parts place in California sends me the new hose/temp sensor/gasket/fratastat, I fire up the van and summer starts.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve kept the thing going. The van still has Fahrvergnügen. And we get to park it in places like this:
So far (fingers crossed) my van is not like many vans of its vintage – up on blocks in a backyard – a dream deferred – “far from movin.’”
Part of what keeps my van going is a community of other Vanagon owners on an e-mail list. If I have a problem, the hive responds. Heck, sometimes one of them even sends me a tool to fix it with.
But as these vans grow older, parts get harder to find. And on the list, we hear about one VW Vanagon lover or another dropping from our ranks.
So when we hear about a brand new van from VW, we get excited.
We got excited in 2001 when VW brought this concept van to the North American International Auto Show.
The closest that van got to being built was in toy form.
And we got excited again when VW released this concept in 2011.
Again, nothing doing. VW is not going to build this van.
So, I’m spending my winter looking for the next part to keep my 1990 Vanagon going.
In the meantime, VW is spending its time talking up its latest model for the U.S. Market – the Cross Coupe GTE.
So what gives? Why no van? VW vans are iconic. They brought the Beetle back with great fanfare. Why not the bus?
Basically, VW says there’s no market for it. Those of us who still drive the old vans are a small group, they say. Not enough for them to justify the expense.
This week, I caught up with “Pressesprecher bei Volkswagen AG” Christian Buhlmann at the North American International Auto Show.
Here’s my Q &A with him about why VW isn’t planning to bring a van back to the U.S. (You can listen to our discussion by clicking on the file below.)
Q: What are the challenges of bringing something like an old Vanagon or an old bus back to the U.S.?
A: The SUVs in the recent year has become the strongest segment. We are selling 2.8 million cars in our industry just in that one single segment … Unfortunately the MPV segment (multi-purpose vehicle or van) is shrinking in volume …
The problem is for us with Volkswagen, we are car enthusiasts at the one thing, but we also do it to be profitable and make money, because we are a shareholder company …
We offer four different vans in Europe where this market is still strong. We do have vans in Asia and other parts of the world. But here for North America, right now, the market is not too big. Instead we need to comply with market and bring SUVs.
A: It’s either love ’em or hate ’em. People who nowadays still drive a T2, T3, T4, you name ‘em – those vans that we used to have until the 2000s – most of them are enthusiasts that run these vehicles in perfect weather conditions. Those are people who are hard core fans for this segment, but they’re just too few to justify making a new version of this only for this market.
“We are selling vans, very well-equipped vans with four-wheel-drive, with kitchenette, with everything that you want for prices of $50,000 and up, which is not where the market here is…”
The second problem is currently we make those vans in Europe, and even with the rising dollar and weaker Euro share, it is not enough units to make up for a reasonable price. We are selling vans, very well-equipped vans with four-wheel-drive, with kitchenette, with everything that you want for prices of $50,000 and up, which is not where the market here is, or where the camping market is. There is an RV market, true, but those RVs are much larger in size than what we currently offer.
Q: I think there are a lot of people in the U.S. who would be interested in having a camping unit that wasn’t as big as they are now. They’re huge. There’s not a smaller option for people. So what price point would you be looking at to sell something like that in the U.S.?
A: As I said, what we currently offer in Europe is $50,000 and up, and I personally just don’t see enough customers for brining such a vehicle where people would say, “O.k., $50,000. How much RV can I possibly get for that kind of money, in terms of length and equipment?” And that just wouldn’t be an adequate offer for this market.
Q: Is there something different about the European market and why that works in the European market, and why that doesn’t work here in the U.S.?
I would say it’s due to size. Let’s say you’re taking your average camper van and you’re going to Italy, take a U.S. van, you wouldn’t be able to access all these little alleys, these streets that they have – you would be stuck.
So you need something compact in order to get where you want to go. Over here, where everything is accessible, even for large RVs, there is just not this demand. Therefore, people in the majority would rather go for something bigger, if they’re looking for RVs.
Q: When the microbus concept came out there was a lot of passion about it, people were really excited about it. There are people who buy old Vanagons for $70,000 – $80,000 that are redone. So they say there is a market for this, so how did you guys determine that there isn’t really enough volume for that?
A: In the volume car business, as we are not a premium brand, it’s quite simple. If you have a model where there’s no derivative that you can share costs or build up more scale, you need at least 200,000 units per year to make it feasible.
We are a company that offers 300 different model lines over 12 brands, and having sold more than 10 million cars last year.
Among these cars there are also some cars which are not making 200,000 units, but they’re not in the volume market anymore.
Whereas if you want to meet this price point, you need to be in the volume market, and there’s just no other car that you can share components with if you’re making this van, because they’re not compliant with the other models such as hatchbacks, sedans, and so on.
So we’re really looking at supplying for a huge market that just isn’t there in the van market.
Q: And how do you know the market isn’t there, surveys?
A: Yes. By market surveys and we obey what’s happening in the market and track that constantly. And that’s why management decisions went toward SUVs.
Whereas us coming from the van segment, we had a hard time of adjusting our model line here. And that is why we are very successful with the vans in Europe, but over here, everything is going towards the SUV segments.
Q: Are you guys watching what is going on with the Ford Transit at all? They released a van here that seems fairly popular.
A: And by the way, the Transit isn’t something that has been invented over here. The Transit is a transition from a European vehicle that has been there as a competitor to our vehicle for decades.
So they jump into that niche that is existing, but of course, they are coming from a different basis, because Ford is one of the “Big Three,” whereas we are a carmaker with currently a 2% market share here in the U.S.
So it’s much easier for them to take a product and bring it to their home market and then get some of the share, but of course it’s not their main product either.
Q: So their other Ford products support that endeavor, I imagine…
A: They jump into the niche just because it’s possible, and it’s feasible for them, but it wouldn’t be for us.
Q: Is that the final answer, would it ever be feasible here?
A: We never make any predictions on what the future is. Who would of thought what the current gas prices – one year ago. You just cannot predict what it is. And a year from now, if the situation is different, we’re going to talk it over.
volkswagen T1 superhero posters fashion VW vans for comic characters
images courtesy of chung kong
the ‘volkswagen T1 superhero’ poster series by designer chung kong, fashions what the rides of comic characters such as spiderman, the hulk and wonder woman, would look like if they owned a classic VW van. the collection was kickstarted by the realization that superman is even more fortunate than his compatriot heroes because he can fly where ever he wants. the others use many types of vehicles to travel around and in contrast to the fancy, high-tech batmobile and iron man suit, chung imagines them in the much loved T1 automobile.
captain america’s version of the VW T1
the spiderman poster
even though superman can fly, this would be his van
wonder woman’s wagen
the iron man edition
in contrast to christian bale’s vehicle, this is batman’s less high-tech batmobile
the punisher’s model
the thing’s fashioned automobile
a VW T1 van painted suitably for the hulk
Hundreds of mourners turned out to pay their respects at the funeral of James Brindley – as his coffin was brought inside a VW Camper Van.
Family and friends joined together today to celebrate the life of 28-year-old James at Carmountside Crematorium in Stoke-on-Trent.
His parents had hired the iconic van as a tribute to their son.
James, from Blurton, was reported missing following a work Christmas party on December 20 and his body was later found in a stretch of the Caldon Canal in Hanley.
PHOENIX (CBS5) –
Folks from across the state came together to help an Arizona woman whose beloved 1969 Volkswagen bus has been the target of repeated acts of vandalism.
There’s a type of teasing that has been going around for some time now. It involves a lot of sketches released by carmakers, way before they decide to ‘leak’ short obscure videos and half-revealing teaser photos. Volkswagen Group is playing that sketch-teasing game through its Commercial Vehicles department with the 2015 Transporter T6, scheduled to make a world debut on April 15.
VW has released the first design sketch of the sixth-generation Transporter, which will have its official world premiere on April 15. The rendering looks exactly as one would expect, considering that the T6 is expected to retain the T5’s underpinnings – just like VW did with the new Caddy
The industrious T6 model has travelled a long way to reach its sixth generation, after the first iteration saw daylight in 1950. However, spy photos have shown that the new Transporter will feature a new interior with a redesigned dashboard complete with an integrated screen for VW’s latest infotainment system. Rremember the Volkswagen Tristar concept, which hinted at the future T6 model despite being a short-wheelbase version of the current T5 Transporter with a cut roof and a pickup bed.
The Tristar received a 2.0-liter turbodiesel good for 204 HP and 450 Nm (331 lb-ft) along with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system but it’s too early to say if that setup will be adopted by the new Transporter T6. In the concept the power was sent through a seven-speed DSG transmission and into a 4MOTION all-wheel drive system. Further engine-related info will become available as the debut date is closing in, but we do know that the new T6 will be built in Hanover and the interior will receive an extended trim for a more upmarket feel inside the cabin.
The new Transporter T6 will show off a more modern and sophisticated design, with rounder panel edges, an increase in attention to detail especially with panel contours and trimmings, and a slightly sportier stance.
Technically, the next version won’t be much different from the current model as far as we know. It will take on the badge ‘T6′, however, it’s believed it will carry over essentially the same platform and similar dimensions as the current version.
VOLKSWAGEN IS giving very little away, in fact, it’s given nothing away with the short blurb accompanying the sketch saying absolutely nothing about the new, sixth-generation Transporter. Making its official debut back in 1950, the VW Transporter is celebrating its 65th year, and according to Volkswagen, “few could have predicted the enormous impact the Transporter would have in revolutionising the commercial vehicle market, creating a timeless automotive icon in the process”.
“Getting the job done efficiently and reliably has been at the heart of the Volkswagen philosophy for the past 65 years. Its reputation for rugged reliability has endured over the decades to make the Volkswagen Transporter one of the world’s best-selling light commercial vehicles,” Volkswagen said in a statement..
Mexico’s Baja California peninsula is an incredibly beautiful place. My 1987 Volkswagen camper van can be an amazing way to travel there. As anyone who has been around one knows, however, calamity is part of every Westy adventure.
Two years and 10 thousand miles ago I completely rebuilt my VW Vanagon GL Westfalia. A day before a large holiday party, while running to pick up ALL THE FOOD, my Vanagon threw the alternator belt, overheated and in a disastrous chain of events ended up needing an engine, transmission, cooling system and brakes. I threw in a new tent and bigger, low profile wheels just for fun. I used GoWesty’s fantastic 2.3L upgraded power plant and made a slew of minor improvements. I had been having such a great two years with the bus, I started to think it was bulletproof.
“She’s like a new car!” I told my girlfriend, who had agreed to come with me on a trip to Canyon de Guadalupe, Mexico, before I described the long, long list of things I’d replaced or had done. We booked a campsite for a few days in late December and planned to marathon drive down from San Francisco on Christmas day.
I worried over every small detail. Swapping out an old p-trap under the kitchen sink in the van took 3 days. This should have been the first clue things were going to go wrong. I started out thinking I needed a better wrench to free it. I ended up drilling holes in the old trap to weaken it, and needing a saw to cut it out. Welcome to the world of the VW bus.
Then the fridge, after starting easily the first time I tried, refused to relight after I’d filled up the propane tank. “Oh well!” I thought, “I’ll run off of electric and start it on gas when I get to Mexico.” It gave me something to worry about, which I felt was normal, so I didn’t let it get in the way.
I’d labored over a decision: whether to take Highway 5 up and over the Grapevine, or the 101. As we were trying for speed, and I trusted my GoWesty engine, we chose the 5. Where to cross the international border was also a major consideration. I wanted to cross at Tecate and drive the famous, scenic MEX2 highway 150 or so miles through La Rumerosa to Laguna Salada and Canyon De Guadalupe. I was worried that Pemex, the state-owned and only gas stations in Mexico, might be closed on Christmas in more rural areas and thought we might run out of gas on our way North. To ensure that didn’t happen, we planned to cross at Mexicali.
I left Muir Beach, CA at 3:30AM, picked up my co-pilot in Oakland around 4 and we were off. She drove the first shift and I slept. Waking up once or twice at gas stops, I wasn’t really cogent or thinking as she headed up the Grapevine, California’s famous VW bus killer.
Many an air-cooled VW van has died on this monstrous incline. Named after the grapes that grow wild around the remnants of the earlier HWY99 that was long ago replaced by the 5, this section of road was once to be feared in the Summer. Nowadays cars have far more efficient cooling systems, as it helps regulate fuel efficiency (an important point later,) but my woefully underpowered 1987 van would have been in danger. Luckily, I thought, it has run super cool since the rebuild and December was freezing cold. I didn’t anticipate any trouble. I didn’t realize my co-pilot was unfamiliar with the Vanagon’s quirky, near useless, gas gauge.
We actually made it over the top of the Grapevine just fine! The van did well and held 55 most of the way. Once we came over the top, with her nose pointed down, we ran out of gas. Initially, I didn’t notice anything. My co-pilot complained she was losing power and I asked her to let off the gas. I took the car out of gear and immediately the engine stopped. Luckily, without the engine braking we sped up. We threw on the hazards and decided to try and roll to the next gas station in Gorman. We came up about 15 feet short and needed a slight push, but as far as Grapevine calamities go this was pretty mild. We filled up the tank, primed the fuel pump and she started right up.
It took about another hundred miles for things to go wrong. My best guess is that we sucked up a ton of sludge from the bottom of my new gas tank (did I mention that had been replaced 2 years ago as well?). It is possible we also got bad gas in Gorman, but they have so much traffic I find that less likely. Whatever the cause, the Vanagon gradually lost power until it wouldn’t rev over 3500rpm. That limited us to about 50-55mph on flat ground and 35mph or so uphill. We were trying to take the 210 freeway around Los Angeles to bypass traffic and didn’t anticipate the San Gabriel mountains being such a problem. Clearly something was wrong with the car.
We ran a little bit of fuel injector cleaner through the Westy. Things got better. We ran a lot more fuel injector cleaner through her and things got a lot better. I decided to swap the fuel filter, after I proudly told my traveling companion I had the foresight to carry one for just this type of problem. We would head from San Dimas, about 70 or 80 miles, with the car gaining and losing power, to Santa Monica and spend the night at my parents. In the AM I’d swap the filter and we’d head to Mexico.
Visiting Santa Monica let us have dinner at my favorite deli in West Los Angeles, Izzy’s. I am not a Fromin’s fan. Had we been closer to the San Fernando Valley, I’d have gone to Brent’s. It was wonderful to eat at a deli on Christmas.
The next morning I swung under the van, asking my friend to time me, because this was going to take less than 5 minutes. Then I saw that the bolt holding the fuel filter to the frame was stripped. It looked like someone had used a power tool on it while up on a lift and chewed the center out. I tried my fathers special “remove stripped bolts and screws” screwdriver to no avail. I tried vise grips but couldn’t get any purchase. Then I found a local mechanic who was open and for $20 he removed the bolt and swapped in the spare filter. It took him less than 5 minutes.
We were on our way! The car was running great again, we could hold 75mph no problem and O’Reilly Auto Parts had another spare fuel filter for us. We headed towards Mexico.
Around 40-50 miles later I noticed that the car felt like it was losing power when I floored it, a frequent occurrence in a vintage VW bus. I had no clue what was going on, so we stopped at a gas station. Idling the van for a few moments, I was surprised to see the temperature gauge never came up above minimum operating temps. I thought the thermostat might be stuck open. Luckily, my incredible mechanic Paul from San Rafael’s Valley Wagonworks chose that very moment to call me. We discussed the issues I’d been seeing and he suggested finding a Vanagon expert to swap the thermostat. He wondered if maybe a fuel injector was still clogged. He told me I wouldn’t hurt the van driving it like this, but it’d be slow.
I took a look at the thermostat housing and decided it was under too much junk to try and swap on the road. I wanted to go to Baja but I also just wanted to go home. The idea of finding myself stuck on the side of the road in Palm Springs, CA with the fluids pouring out of a cooling system I was unable to properly bolt down was only slightly more appealing than the idea of being in a similar position on the southern side of the US/Mexico border. It was around 11am and 70ºF out. The car was running fine. We agreed it’d be safer to just go home.
Thus began a long, slow trip home. I did not anticipate the outside temperatures changing. As it got colder the car lost power. As we went up in elevation, we lost power. The car ran less and less efficiently, sometimes down to 6 or 7mpg. We were stopping every 60-80 miles. When outside temperatures dropped below 50F the car started to blow clouds of smoke when you’d accelerate.
This was not how I’d hoped to introduce a new friend to the joys of Vanagon camping.
We got home. During the several days we spent pretending my house was a campsite, I found a spare thermostat. I swapped it in, in about one hour, and didn’t lose much coolant. The car runs perfectly fine now. I’ll take it to my mechanic to change the oil and check my work soon.
One friend suggested I find a newer van to go camping in. He doesn’t get it.
While I never got to Baja, this was kind of a perfect Westy adventure. We solved the issues and got home safe. My friend says she’d love to find a closer hot springs and try the VW again. I still want to go to Baja.
The Camping and Caravanning Club continues to focus on offering great value for money by freezing the price of its Online Membership at just £37 for 2015. This great news for members follows a very successful year for the Club in 2014, which saw the household membership figure rise to 262,576 at the end of December.
Much of this success was down to the launch of the Online Membership offering in spring 2014. It has proven a hit with Club members – nearly 35,000 households have already opted for this significantly discounted, paper-free subscription. Online Membership offers all the benefits of the paper equivalent, but instead of receiving printed versions of the Club magazine and sites directories, the same information is offered in digital format.
The Club magazine, Camping & Caravanning, is available online as a turn-page edition, and all the Club’s campsites can be researched through its SiteSeeker app. Once the SiteSeeker app is downloaded, you don’t need internet access to launch it and research your next site.
If you do have internet access, though, it is possible to click through within the SiteSeeker app to book your holiday online via the Club’s revamped site pages, which are optimised for mobile device use.
And more recently, Online Membership is complemented by an interactive magazine app as the latest addition to the Club’s growing digital offering for members. The app, entitled Camping & Caravanning, is available as an iPad download from Apple’s App Store. It mirrors the award-winning print version of Camping & Caravanning magazine, which continues to be published every month.
The Club’s Membership Services Director, Darren Whittington, said: “The way people choose to consume information has changed drastically in recent years: we now have more visitors to our website via tablet and mobile devices than we do from laptop or desktop computers.
“That’s why we’re delighted by the enthusiastic response to our Online Membership offering, which recognises this preference. And crucially, it enables us to offer a significant discount over paper membership to our members.”
New research has found that families could save up to £1,100 by swapping a hotel room for a “cosy caravan” when hitting the ski slopes in Europe this season.
Caravan dealership, Salop Leisure, compared the average cost of staying in a hotel or chalet with the cost of driving to the mountains and staying in a campsite. Yes, there’s no match for the comfort of real, actual brick walls, a freshly-made bed every morning or chalet staff-made coffee and cake on your return from the slopes every day, but making the swap to the deal on wheels could be almost eight times cheaper.
Using prices from Trip Advisor’s 2014 Trip Index, Salop Leisure found that the average price for a week’s stay in a hotel or chalet in Serre Chevalier, France, where accommodation is apparently one of the cheapest in the French Alps, is £1,210. However, skip the hotels and head to the nearby Champ du Moulin campsite and the cost for a family of four for seven nights plummets to £163.
The same savings apply in more popular resorts like Austria’s St Anton, where, according, again, to Trip Advisor, a week’s stay is the most expensive in Europe, with an average cost of £3,424. But trade the luxuries of a hotel or chalet for the Camping Arlberg site and a pitch for the week will cost £182 and include a private bathroom hut, wireless internet, washing machine, tumble dryer, sauna and ski bus stop to the slopes (mind you, that’s just a public bus stop and a free ski bus).
Salop Leisure says more and more Britons are purchasing campervans and caravans for holidays, a trend it believes matches behaviour in North America where driving a motorhome to a holiday destination is much more common. The dealership says that while the initial investment in a “chalet on wheels” may be steep (in the region of £20,000, but up to £40,000), the savings to be made in resorts around Europe are vast.
“It’s especially advantageous on a powder day because you can park on the steps of the gondola, and roll out of bed right before the lift starts running and get right on.”
Camping Arlberg in St Anton, Austria
Ski-in/ski-out access (sort of, from your car park) may sound ideal, but Telegraph Ski and Snowboard editor Henry Druce said the dream does not match the reality. He said: “When I toured the Alps a few years ago in a campervan I found the experience tiring because of all the driving and inconvenient because the campsites where we stayed in Val d’Isère and Chamonix were not that close to the lifts and lacking in crucial home comforts like a nice big bath to soak away the aches and pains of a day on the slopes.”
He added: “Admittedly my experience was tainted from the word go as we were robbed on the first night of our trip and lost thousands of pounds worth of kit.”
Saving money is not the only consideration though – as well as the hours of driving (the drive from Calais to Val d’Isère is about nine and a half hours), prepping your ride for a winter journey requires meticulous effort. Everything from winter tyres, snow chains and pipe insulation to checking tyre pressures, testing breaks and investing in copious amounts of antifreeze are seen as essential preparation for a moutain drive adventure. See our guide on how to drive to the slopes.So, would you?
The new Transporter series T6 from Volkswagen was shown off at the IAA Show last year. Based on the speculations right now, we might be seeing the T6 this year.
Under the hood of the Volkswagen T6 is a 2.0 TDI diesel engine that will be powered by a 201hp and will be mated to a seven speed DSG transmission. It will need about 10seconds to go from 0 – 100km/h and will have a top speed of 115mph.
The Volkswagen T6 will be coming in with new LED headlights. Volkswagen also gave it some new lines on the side and also a modified front design. The T6 will also come with a 20inch tablet table that can be used for video conferencing. They also gave it a sound system. Customers can also choose to add on an espresso machine if they want to.
The Volkswagen T6 will have two loading space, the flatbed area to load large items and the water tight drawer that is located under the flatbed. There have been talks that we might get to see the Volkswagen T6 at the Geneva Motor Show this year