What it Is: Volkswagen UP! Concept.
Heck, it worked before. So why not try it again? With sales sputtering and a US vehicle lineup in need of some fresh ideas, VW went back to the beginning at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show and debuted a cute urban get-about powered by a rear-mounted engine and promising fun and efficiency. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the last time VW did such a thing to a car they called it a Beetle.
Why it Matters: In this age of rising gas prices, environmental awareness and conservation, the UP! Minicar Concept makes sense for an automaker in need of a home run. This ain’t like selling a small SUV off a small car platform; it’s designed for specific uses and a specific range of people, one that may well define what VW will be thought of in the future: Semi-premium-wanna-be-luxury maker? Or smart and affordable cars for smart and cost-conscious people? The UP! fits only one profile, unless of course you need something that’ll transport you to your used Phaeton parked in the back lot of the country club.
What’s Under the Hood: Aside from the nostalgic curiosity of the rear-mounted engine, little is known about what would actually power an UP! down the road. Think three cylinders, perhaps, as the size of the UP! is comparable to a SmartForTwo car.
What it Looks Like: The UP! is a typical concept hatch, with lots of cartoonish, futuristic features such as huge logos on each wheel, virtually zero overhangs front and back, and the apparent absence of a radiator. Of course, the base of the vehicle, elements such as the hatch configuration, ample visibility and tall shoulders, could very well make it into a production model.
What’s Inside: Total innovation is the buzzword inside the UP!. All three passenger seats are removable and stowable in the front cargo hold area. Personal touch screen abound inside, with everyone snuggled into their own little entertainment pod.
Volkwagen seems determined to build this car, though not quite yet ready to sell it inside the US. Rumor has it that VW officials are monitoring how well Smart does in North America, and may adjust their thinking accordingly.
The UP! can go in two directions: Down, as in forgetting about this concept and focusing on small SUVs and other types of mainstream cars. Or Up, as in a mini car replacement to the Beetle, a rear-mounted phenom that gives people affordable and clever transportation. People really do want a car with personality, but also really want a car that runs – at least most of the time. This UP! Concept could be the start of something new and fresh from the minds of VW…or just another dusty concept hidden behind the rows of slow-selling Touaregs and Tiguans. Build the UP! and who knows…Disney just might do a Herbie the Luv Bug Meets Corkie the UP! Bug movie.