Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Volkswagen Beetle Rides Again -Video


The 2012 Beetle is bigger than both its predecessors. In fact, it's more than three inches wider and six inches longer than the previous New Beetle. It is also slightly lower to the ground. Under the hood, the standard engine is a 2.5 liter, producing 200 horsepower, with turbo-charged 2.0 liter gas and diesel engines offered as well. The New Beetle TDI (diesel) is expected to get 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway, with a combined fuel economy of 33 mpg. Both an automatic and manual transmission will be offered.

The sleeker, sportier version of the Beetle, a departure from the New Beetle introduced in 1998, was created to not only broaden the car's appeal in the U.S., but also to be a bigger seller in China and Europe.

21st century design continues in that tradition (how could it not if it's to be called Beetle?), but with some attention to styling that is meant to attract more men to the car than the last model. The 1999 New Beetle was so bulbous in appearance, it was practically the vehicular interpretation of a breast. And men, it turns out, may like a breast, but they don't much want to be caught driving one. More than 70% of the New Beetle buyers were women.

The average age buyer for the 1999 New Beetle was also old enough to have driven one of the originals to Woodstock. Now that Baby Boomers who grew up as kids with original Beetles are well into their fifties and older, this New Beetle needs to attract some of the American Idol generation -- the ones that say "Who?," when a contestant is compared with Janis Joplin.

n the waning days of World War Two, German refugees who had worked in the Wolfsburg, Germany Volkswagen plant that produced war machinery -- including vehicles built on the engineering platform of the Beetle -- began squirreling machines, tools and dies into underground caverns protected from Allied air-strikes. When fighting ceased, Hitler was dead and the Allied Forces of the U.S., Great Britain and Russia began carving up pieces of Germany, workers began hand-building vehicles and bartering them for more raw material to make more cars, as well as food and other necessities of survival through the first winter after the German surrender in 1945 and collapse of the Third Reich.

The plant and machinery to build the Type One "Volkswagen," which had been ballyhooed in the late 1930s in newspapers the world over as "Hitler's Car," was wanted by the Russians. Neither the Americans, nor the Brits, especially, wanted the car or the damaged factory. But they also did not want the Russians to have it, so it was kept in the hands of the Germans as a means to rebuild their lives and economy. The German people had been promised a Volkswagen, "The People's Car," and they were finally going to get it. And, indeed, the rise of the Beetle, as reliable and durable a car as ever was built, was a crucial piece of Germany's post-war economic recovery.

U.S. after its introduction in the early 1950s. While some WW2 vets wanted no part of Hitler's car, others remembered how much better the German Kubelwagen (the German "Jeep") performed through the rigors of North Africa, let alone Europe, and were more than glad to buy one for purely practical reasons.

The funny looking -- by Detroit's standards -- car became the default purchase of teachers, college faculty and low-wage public employees such as social workers and civil servants. And the clever advertising created for it by New York ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, introducing humor and irony to advertising on the whole, made it an acceptable purchase for lawyers, small business owners and other college educated drivers.

It was inexpensive to buy, and the simple 40 horsepower air-cooled engine made it extremely durable, pretty fuel efficient at around 30 mpg and simple to tinker with if it didn't start some morning. A novice could easily change a fuel filter, a spark plug or tap the solenoid with a screwdriver or wrench to help a slow start. Its simplicity, combined with its unique design, was central to its charm. The original "Type One" plans specified that the car must be easy to maintain and repair in keeping with the idea that working class families could own one.

Its lightness of weight (1,900 pounds, almost 900 pounds lighter than the New Beetle of 1999) made for some interesting collisions. A New York City taxicab could T-bone a Volkswagen Beetle at 35 mph, and the likely effect would be to send the car flying thirty or forty feet across the pavement sliding on its 15-inch tires. If the Beetle didn't hit another car or pole, the driver had a good chance of driving away.

The second act of the Beetle saving Volkswagen, the company, came in the 1990s. Without the Beetle, Volkswagen's U.S. operation struggled. U.S. built Rabbits were lousy and pocked with quality problems. Exchange rates made imported VW's pricey. The Volkswagen advertising that had charmed the U.S. and transformed Madison Avenue through the 1960s and early 70s had become banal.

"New Beetle" to try and rekindle interest. The company produced a "concept-car" and rolled it into the 1994 Detroit Auto Show under intense secrecy. The response for the car was greater than had been seen for any new car in decades. Reporters were seen to wipe away tears. Autoweek named it "Best In Show." The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today all put the car in their front pages, along with many a city and local daily paper carrying the AP story and photo.





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