The 21st Century Beetle

Posted on June 2, 2011

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At the recent 2011 New York Auto Show, Volkswagen debuted the 2012 Beetle calling it simply the “21st Century Beetle” and dropping the “New Beetle” tagline.  VW hopes that the new car will be a bit more masculine and appeal to both sexes unlike the chick car we received in the 1998 New Beetle.

Like the outgoing bug, the new punch-dub is essentially a Golf with a cute body.  I have no doubt that our German friends will sell plenty of the wrong-wheel drive cars to those willing to plunk down cash based on nothing more than the cute factor.  Most of these buyers will end up with the base level engine along with the usual slushbox auto.

And much like the buyers of the previous generation bug, many of them will be women.  Nothing wrong with that, VW will be selling cars which is a good thing in my mind.

What I do wonder about, however, is the fact that VW is offering a turbo 2 litre with a manual transmission.  Obviously this powertrain option is part of an effort to lure drivers searching for a “sporty” car that remains practical.  But VW already has such a car in its lineup-the ever classic, and quite nice looking GTI which is been very popular with hot hatch buyers in the US.

Frankly I cannot see why anyone shopping a sport compact would buy the bug over the GTI.  Nor do I see the turbo beetle competing with the Mini Cooper S, perhaps its most direct rival.

Here’s why.  The new Mini has gained a solid following with buyers across multiple demographics.  The younger male crowd purchases the S and gets a fun and quick euro-compact.  The regular Minis, then are purchased by the family man/woman looking for a retro/cute compact.

The styling of the car is such that it does not alienate either demographic.

The problem for the 2012 Beetle is that the car is fixed firmly as nothing but “cute” in the minds of the American public thanks to the 1998 New Beetle.

Unfortunately for Volkswagen, I don’t see them overcoming that stigma anytime soon.

My other qualm with the new car is how they are touting it as “only the 3rd redesign in the Beetle’s history.”  Even the Motortrend journalist in the following video uses that phrase:

Bull (or should I say bug) shit.

Line up a 1951 Beetle and a 1973 Super Beetle next to each other.  They’re essentially two totally different cars with a similar shape and drivetrain.  The bug has changed countless times over the years, although some of the changes have been quite minute.

The fact remains, however, this is far from the 3rd redesign.

In any event, time will tell how this newest slug-bug is accepted by the auto-buying public.  Personally I find it to be a pointless addition to the Volkswagen product line, and one that seeks to find sales volume based on feelings of nostalgia and cuteness instead of standing on its own as a good car.

My advice?  If you really want a beetle, take $10,000 and pick up a nice 58 ragtop.

-Paul

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