Volkswagen Thing Might Make Comeback As Electric Vehicle


Could debut after the production Microbus-inspired EV.

Remember the Volkswagen Kubelwagen? It’s a light military vehicle designed by Ferdinand Porsche and built by the German automaker during the World War II for use by the army. It also had a civil version, sold in the United States under the Thing moniker during the early 1970s. That thing might be coming back soon as an electric vehicle, according to a new report.

Speaking to Car and Driver, VW brand boss Herbert Diess said he’s interested in resurrecting the cute little four-door convertible using the upcoming MEB (Modular Electrification Toolkit) architecture for electric vehicles. He believes a retro-inspired, zero-emission utility vehicle could be an interesting proposal on the market, as Volkswagen seeks to revive some of its favorite nameplates from the past.

VW Thing

“MEB is flexible – rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive – and we have so many emotional concepts,” Diess the publication. “I don’t know if you remember the Kubelwagen. This Thing is a nice car. Then there are all the buggies, the kit cars. We have the bus. We have the various derivatives of the bus. We have so many exciting concepts in our history that we don’t have to do a Beetle.”

But is Volkswagen planning to do another modern-day Beetle? There’s no decision yet, Diess told Car and Driver, as the manufacturer is still undecided on “what kind of emotional concepts” it needs. One thing is for sure – “this Beetle won’t go electric; the next one might, if there is a next one.”

Volkswagen has already confirmed the first retro-inspired electric vehicle it will launch will be a production version of the Bulli, Budd-e, and I.D. Buzz concepts, which is also going to be based on the MEB platform. It’ll go on sale in 2022 and will receive a fully electric powertrain, as well Level 3 autonomous capabilities.

Source: Car and Driver

Photos: AutoWP

Categories: Volkswagen


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33 Comments on "Volkswagen Thing Might Make Comeback As Electric Vehicle"

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This isn’t the first InsideEVs article about turning the VW Type 181 (marketed in the USA as “The Thing”) into an EV, altho the previous one was about a conversion vehicle:

But I strongly suspect this is just the latest in Volkswagen’s unending stream of vaporware about EVs which will never see production.

P.S. — The WW II era Volkswagen Kubelwagen was certainly one of the inspirations for the VW Type 181, marketed in the USA as “The Thing”. But it’s a pretty strong overstatement to call the Type 181, which was VW’s answer to the dune buggy, a “civil[ian] version” of the Kubelwagen.

The Volkswagen Kuebelwagen: Definitely not the same as the VW Type 181!

You are correct, however, the type 181 *was* developed for the military, it was developed for the Bundeswehr, the Military of West Germany.

Calling it a derivative of the Kübelwagen is wrong– it was *inspired* by the Kübelwagen but they share effectively NO parts or design.

It was basically a toughened-up, slab-sided Volkswagen Beetle– Volkswagen was trying to cash in on the dune buggy craze and used a military contract to pay for the development. The parts on a Thing that aren’t Beetle parts were usually changed to make the vehicle stronger.

That said, the Thing is a FUN car, especially when you stroke up the motor and give it a bit more power. It’s really like a civilian Jeep CJ-5, with the drumming metal panels and the feeling that you’re driving OUTSIDE the car.

It would be an interesting vehicle for VW to resurrect, especially if they increase the power by making it a BEV. There is an electric Beetle at my wife’s work that is a very sweet car– I’d love to see an electrified Thing.

Ridiculous, A.P.G. . The 181 was even designated as “Kubelwagen”, and is based on a mostly type 1 platform… Just as the first models were. The tooling for the original body was probably long lost, (Schwimmwagen production was destroyed by war), there were other production considerations which led to changes – updating. The early models of 181 even had the swing trans-axle with reduction gearboxes, while contemporary VW models were being produced with I.R.S. . This poor vehicle was made to resemble a big golf cart, and given a stupid name for the U.S market; where it’s factory reinforced type 1 components (for high ground clearance, strength, and low gearing) gained little appreciation. You say they share no parts or design? That is like saying the last air cooled beetle had nothing to do with the first. It would be interesting to know if Bruce Meyers would acknowledge the similarity to the Schwimmwagen in the style of his Manx buggy; a classic for sure, but if not for the original off-road, amphibious, 4wd type 1…

Why not, people buy up those ugly Mercedes G Wagons like they’re going out of style.

I think you may see an VW EV Beetle before the VW Thing.

Tell me again, why we need Nazi-Inspired Electrics in the 21st Century?

In the 20th century, a Nazi-inspired compact car sure inspired a large number of people to buy compact cars, and a large number of companies to design and sell them. Can you explain to me how we’d be better off if they had all bought full-size Detroit battleships instead?

Thank you for that perfect example of an ad hominem fallacy. 🙄

Are you likewise gonna slam the classic Volkswagen Beetle because it came to be from Adolf Hitler’s order to Ferdinand Porsche that he design a “people’s car”?

A car should stand or fall on its own merits, not on any relationship to politicians dead and gone, whether as saintly as Mahatma Gandhi or as evil as Adolph Hitler.

Perhaps a better example of genetic fallacy, but the point still stands.

How refreshing to see a debate over formal arguments and logic! Thank you. 🙂

I won’t say you’re wrong; an argument can certainly fall into more than one category of fallacy.

But I think this better fits the sub-category of argumentum ad hominem commonly known as “Poisoning the well”.

You seem to be versed on VW history, so I’m sure you know that while the entire drive train and and mechanical design of the platform came from Porsche, the exterior design that millions upon millions of people have come to love and adore worldwide, came directly from the hand of Hitler. He sketched what the car should look like and approved the final concepts according to his desires.

The irony is, the car most loved by the super left wing hippies of the ’60s , was designed by Adolph Hitler, a person they absolutely abhorred.

“…the exterior design that millions upon millions of people have come to love and adore worldwide, came directly from the hand of Hitler.”

Or maybe that’s just an urban myth. A relevant quote:

Another popular misconception that you hear often is that Adolf Hitler ‘designed’ the car that would come to be known as the VW Beetle. While Hitler did draw a couple sketches of what he thought a volkswagen should look like, those drawings do not look like the final Beetle (it really resembles a number of rear-engine designs of the era, such as the Mercedes-Benz 130H, and Hitler certainly wasn’t an automotive engineer. So this just isn’t true — Hitler did not design the Beetle.

Full article, including Hitler’s own sketch so you can judge for yourself, here:

There’s more Nazi in your IBM than your VW.

NASA’s space program was built on Nazi Rocket Technology… That’s where you appropriate something evil, and recycle it for a grander purpose than the tech was originally intended for.

I was just discussing reviving a Nazi Inspired Jeep, but the truth about the Beetle is, it was actually stolen from a Jewish designer:

Hitler would never have approved the design, if he had known the truth. Proof that VW was founded on lies.

As for the Thing Revival VW’s promoting, the automaker does humanity no favors by dredging up past cultural baggage with a Kübelwagen inspired design. How is this not any different than wearing “Stars & Bars” clothing?

If they make a couple trim levels, perhaps they could name them Thing1 and Thing2.

You HAD to go there.

What is this ABOMINATION?!?!?

It ain’t no Abominable Snowman, that’s fur Dang Sure!

LMFAO Tom!!!

You made my day!

Fans of Theodor S. Geisel unite? 🙂

According to some librarian, he’s a racist.

The Dr. Seuss books celebrate diversity, and often have a moral advocating against prejudice and intolerance.

It’s truly sad how far some people will go out of their way to perceive offense where very obviously none was intended. In fact, such people, like the Grinch, are exhibiting the narrow-minded intolerance that Theodor Seuss Geisel advocated against.

Owned one of first Things out, wife, I and three son’s loved it, except in winter when gas heater went tits-up on an almost daily basis.

Living in very rural woodlands this was a perfect hunting, a blackmail buck fit in the tops bay, fishing and camping rig.

We transported 4 goats at one time, various white faced calves, and our Labradors and great Dane loved it as well.

Bring out an electric Spartan pkg with at least 250 mile range and I will purchance.

Just as long as it does not have that F’n gas heater.

Wonderful story! white faced claves and goats and even a Dane:) whish I was there to see it.

“this was a perfect hunting, a blackmail buck fit in the tops bay”

Are you able to talk about why the buck was blackmailing you?

Now you’re just being silly. Let’s return to discussion of more serious topics, such as Thing 1 and Thing 2.

“He believes a retro-inspired, zero-emission utility vehicle could be an interesting proposal on the market”

I, in the other hand, think that a dull looking vehicle with a 200 mile+ range and fast charging even more interesting. It looks like that Tesla and Chevrolet agree with me.

I remember The Thing, what a piece of crap.
I suppose VW is hoping people forgot.

The Thing/Typ 181 is reminiscent of the Citroën Méhari, which launched at the same time.

My father used to have an extreme emotional reaction when he saw these things, and not a good one. He fought in the war, and these were favored by the SS. Please redesign, we don’t need all retro.


VW design: “so Tesla is eating our luxury market and soon they will have the Model 3 eating our middle market. We could release a compelling EV to compete!”

VW exec: “no way! That would eat into our current products!”

So they do nothing and Tesla will eat them for lunch. Rather than move into the future at the expense of their existing products, but still a sale to them at the end of the day, they would rather see Tesla eat their lunch. This is obvious from I.D. concepts that should have been production intent vehicles from day one, and now this ridiculous retro idea based on a very limited utility vehicle.
Go VW, you’re on a winning formula!
Now for all those who think this is a great idea, send VW $1,000 and tell them it is a deposit for this vehicle, let them know how passionate you are about it. No? Not going to happen? Fair enough said.