How the electric VW ID. Buzz went from unknown quantity to hot property
That’s not a VW ID. Buzz you’re looking at. But that’s fine because this is a story with deep roots and a lengthy back story. Just ask VW – they’ve been teasing the return of the cool van for almost 25 years. I’m only taking you back six. May 2017 and I’m in the south of Spain to ‘drive’ the I.D. Buzz concept. And I do, at up to 20mph.
It’s predictably dreadful, but the experience of being in it is wonderful. It’s bright, airy, cool, and stacked with neat details from bottle holders in the floor and magazine racks to seatbelts doubling as load securing straps and a steering wheel prepped for autonomous driving. VW is promising to have it in production in 2021.
And that triggers something in me. You see, about a month prior I’d just bought a nearly new VW California Beach (the camper, but without the kitchen sink) as our main family car. We all love it – it brings a sense of freedom no SUV can match. And that despite being fairly grey and van-like inside. Four years time, I think, we might well be looking to upgrade.
So when I get back from Spain, I phone the dealership I bought the Cali from, Marshalls Van Centre in Reading. The exchange went something like this.
Me: “Hi, is it possible to put a deposit down for the new ID. Buzz?”
Me: “You know the all electric van that’s coming in a few years? I wanted to make sure I got on the waiting list.”
Salesman: “Waiting list?! Mate, I’ve never taken a deposit for a van in my life, we don’t have people queuing up to buy vans, y’know. This ain’t Rolls-Royce or somefink.”
I do, in the end, manage to get him to make a note of my name and my request and every so often I will call him up and ask if he knows any more. Years pass. The only thing of note that happens comes in 2021. You might remember the year after lockdown: travel was difficult, so staycations were in and camper van prices went through the roof.
And suddenly I get a call from Marshalls. They want my van. It’s now four years old and has done over 40,000 miles. It has a slight dent in the bonnet from a stray mallet blow – that was me, at a festival, trying to erect a windbreak when all I’d handled for the previous few hours was beer bottles. Anyway, they offer me £43,000 – which just happens to be £3,500 more than I’d paid for it back in 2017. A savvier man than me would probably have bitten their hand off.
But the Buzz has now been confirmed, so all I’m interested in is part exchange. And in 2021 that’s not possible. We still don’t know what the Buzz will look like and no, I still can’t put a deposit down. However, the salesman does now admit he’s had a couple more phonecalls. Momentum is starting to build…
And then at the start of last year I get a phone call. We can go to Milton Keynes to drive a disguised version of the production ID. Buzz. So I go and spend a morning with it. And I love it. It corrects my diesel van’s deficiencies. The weight is more centred, it’s way more refined and structurally sound, it’s swift and smooth, the view forward, even over a dash hidden behind cladding, is high, open and panoramic. It feels sophisticated.
It shows how much work has been done over the last five years. But not everywhere. Even with my rose-tinted specs on I’m surprised how much smaller it is inside than my T6, and how ordinary the rear seat experience is. But I put that to the back of my mind and, once again, get back in touch with Marshalls. And now things have changed. “I’ve never had to do this before”, says the salesman “but if you’re serious about this ID.Buzz thing, I need to get £1,000 from you”.