Why Can’t You Buy the Volkswagen California in California (Or Anywhere in the US)?

Why Can't You Buy the Volkswagen California in the US?
The Volkswagen California (Ocean Red model shown) is available in European markets, but not in the US. [Photo: Volkswagen]

Back in the late 20th century, camper vans like the Volkswagen Microbus, also known as the Vanagon or Transporter, enjoyed some popularity in the US. So why can’t we get one now?

There was a day, way back when, where people who needed to transport several other people and their cargo turned to vans. It’s a philosophy that makes sense – buy something large and boxy that gives you the most interior space for the least exterior size. That’s why, at least to some arguable extent, the Volkswagen Microbus and its derivatives were so popular. Not only was it a practical proposition, but it was also a fashion statement – something where you can say, “I have the space and equipment to handle whatever life throws at me.” The Volkswagen Transporter (among its many other names) is one of the best-selling vans in history, moving over 12 million units during its lifespan. That heritage lives on today with this: the Volkswagen California.

Despite its name, the California is sold throughout Europe, but not in the U.S. At the moment, we don’t get a version of Volkswagen’s campervan, although we are supposed to get an all-electric I.D. BUZZ microbus in 2022. The current lack of the California in the States is what makes the appearance of this specimen out in the wild all the more surprising:

Why Isn't the Volkswagen California sold here?
The Volkswagen California was spotted by a TFLcar reader in Malibu, California. [Photo: Larry Q.]

Volkswagen California spotted in California!

TFLcar reader Larry Q. sent us some photos of a Volkswagen California van out in the wild. Appropriately, he snapped the van in California. Seeing this van in its natural habitat – the place nearly everyone dreams about when they think, “screw it, I just want to go to the beach”, raises one big question: Why don’t we get the California in the U.S. right now?

There are a few different answers to that question. Demand, price, niche appeal – there are several reasons Volkswagen thinks it best not to sell it here. On the price front, this van starts from the equivalent of $46,000, and that’s before shipping charges. This particular Volkswagen California, however, has manufacturer plates, which is curious. Maybe this Volkswagen’s coming over to California to catch its movie break in Hollywood. What do you all think, TFLcar community? Let us know in the comments below!

Why Isn't the Volkswagen California sold here?
[Photo: Larry Q.]
Zach Butler
Zach is a writer and Managing Editor for TFLcar. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in hot hatchbacks and off-road rigs. Born and raised in Colorado, Zach holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Colorado State University, and is based in Boulder, Colorado.