The VW Bus Principle: From Myth to Multitalent

Everyone has their own idea about how they will use their Volkswagen Transporter – whether for business or pleasure. That’s why it comes with versatility as standard – so that every customer gets exactly the right vehicle for their needs. This is the “VW Bus Principle”.
The VW Bus Principle – From Myth to Multitalent (photo)

The first thing Jochen Eilert does when he arrives at a trade fair site in his silver Volkswagen California is to extend the electric high roof. He then mounts a large construction plan on the inside of the roof at the front. In the next few days, the lines and areas marked out on the plan that Eilert is looking at will be turned into the set for a shareholders’ meeting, a trade fair booth, or the pavilion for an event. “I like being able to stand up in the vehicle. It means I can look at the entire construction plan”, says Eilert.

Eilert is managing director of trade fair/exhibition contractor Maedebach. The company, whose headquarters and workshops are in Brunswick, has 58 employees. Carpenters and graphic designers, planners and electricians, fitters and painters build the required components sometimes months in advance. These are then transported by truck to locations ready for assembly. “Sometimes it’s like working on a major building site”, says Eilert. “When we built Volkswagen’s stand at the last IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover, we carried 100 truck loads”, he adds.

The Volkswagen California serves as a mobile office on the building site and is the first port of call for the staff there. In next to no time, Eilert can turn the motorhome’s kitchen unit into storage space, and when he calls his staff in for a meeting, he can fold the table out and turn the front seats around to make the back of the vehicle into a conference room. Eilert also uses the California for pleasure. In the winter, he stows his skis on board and heads for the Alps. In the summer, he takes his children on weekend trips to the Harz mountains. “Sleeping in the bus is always an adventure for the little ones”, says Eilert.

Being versatile is exactly what the T5 was invented for. “The Transporter’s flexibility has made it a big success for decades”, says Stephan Schaller, who has been spokesman for the Board of Management of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles for two years. “It has become a real icon over the years.” Harald Schomburg, senior brand manager at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles responsible for sales and marketing, believes that the versatility of today’s Transporter confirms the basic idea behind the vehicle: “The Transporter has always been an all-rounder: be it a fire truck, a transporter for craftsmen, or a tuned classic version – there is barely another vehicle that can be tailored so flexibly to customers’ wishes. This is what we call the ‘VW Bus Principle’.” In fact, this versatility is even reflected in the German nickname for the VW Bus given to the vehicle way back in the days of Germany’s economic miracle. It has always been affectionately known as the “Bulli”, an abbreviation of the two German terms for “bus” and “delivery van”.

Jochen Eilert, Managing Director of the Trade Fair/Exhibition Contractor Maedebach (photo)
“I like being able to stand up in the vehicle. It means I can look at the entire construction plan.” Jochen Eilert, Managing Director of the Trade fair/exhibition contractor Maedebach (quotation)

In addition to the California and a Multivan, Maedebach’s fleet includes five new Transporters. When they’re out and about in these vehicles, the trade fair contractors have their tools with them: circular saws, compressors, carpentry tools and lift trucks. The two long-wheelbase T5s made a particular impression on the company’s staff: “These vehicles have a loading space that’s 2.65 meters long – which is good because 2.50 meters is a standard measure in trade fair construction”, says Eilert. The particleboard that is used to build the walls of trade fair stands is the same height, as are the frames that go with it.

After production began in 1950, the VW Bus quickly became the ideal solution when an agile, reliable and flexible transporter was required. For example, the German Federal Railways had a version built that was suitable for running on rail tracks, and the Transporter was even used under ground: after the war, the VW Bus served as a people and goods transporter in salt mines, as a locomotive pulling freight cars and as a canteen bus. Around ten million Transporters have now been sold. Despite being in the shadow of the VW Beetle, the Transporter has written its own success story. Unlike the Beetle, which was only available in one type, the success of the VW Bus is based on the diversity of its models.

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