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First Drive: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle

Forward into the past.

by on Jul.15, 2011

The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle may be a very modern car but its heritage design is unmistakable.

Less flower, more power.  That’s the message Volkswagen hopes to get out as it prepares for the upcoming launch of the third-generation Volkswagen Beetle.

As unlikely as it might seem, that’s not a typo.  Since the original “people’s car,” or Volkswagen, was introduced in the dark days before the Second World War, it has gone through any number of refinements, but only two complete updates.  And the last time VW revealed a redesign it wound up with the New Beetle, an insufferably sweet “chick car” that largely alienated the male half of the automotive buying public.

Not so this time, as VW emphasized during a global launch, last April, and at this week’s first drive in Berlin.  Along with the flower vase, the maker has abandoned the semi-circular shape of the New Beetle, the “21st Century Beetle” adopting what designers like to call a heritage design.

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Sitting side-by-side in the German capital’s Potsdamer Platz, it’s easy to see the influence of the original Beetle, the longest-lived and best-selling car in global automotive history.  The new model regains the classic silhouette, with its long, rounded snout and a lower, more aggressive roof-line.  Aggressive is the active word, for VW, which believes the new edition can appeal to both men and women with its more sporty look.

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Behind the Beetle Redesign

VW design chief explains his strategy for the critical redesign.

by on Apr.19, 2011

"A beloved icon."

Seventy-five years ago, there was no Beetle.  There was only the “people’s car,” or Volks Wagen.  And even that little car might have vanished into the wreckage of World War II were it not for an enterprising British officer who found one of the few models to survive amidst the rubble at a plant in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Eventually, what the little insect-like coupe would go on to become the most popular car in automotive history, ultimately selling nearly 5 million copies before it was replaced by the “New” Beetle, in 1998.  The update has proven controversial and far less successful.  No wonder Klaus Bischoff the Volkswagen brand design chief was nervous when given the challenge of developing what was to become only the second complete redesign of the Beetle in three quarters of a century.

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There was plenty of debate inside the German automaker as to whether the Beetle should even be updated or simply abandoned, Bischoff tells TheDetroitBureau.com.  His position was simple: “I didn’t want to lose this beloved icon for the brand.”

But as he and his team set out to come up with a suitable replacement, Bischoff says it was clear they had to both look forward and backwards at the same time.

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