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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  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.