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VW Celebrates 65 Years of Beetle in America

Three generations later, car is integral to maker’s US success.

by on Jan.31, 2014

Volkwagen's history in the United States is captured in this photo of the 2014 Beetle, left, and the 1949 Beetle, right.

One of the key elements of the German post-World War II economic miracle has reached something a milestone this month.

The Volkswagen Beetle, one of the reborn German auto industry’s most enduring and fabled icons, celebrates 65 years since it first arrived in the United States. In January 1949, a Volkswagen “Type 1,” or Beetle, was shipped to New York City. Sent to Ben Pon, Sr., who was a Dutch businessman and the world’s first official Volkswagen importer.

World View!

It was the first time the Beetle, which went on to become something of a counter-culture staple by the 1960s, was sold in the United States. In fact, sales skyrocketed by 100% after the first one was arrived: VW sent a second one that year and it sold too. (more…)

VW Beetle: Mini 911 or a Big Mistake?

In an effort to broaden its appeal Beetle is more aggressive, less cute.

by on May.30, 2012

Everything old is new again: the newest Beetle lined up against a silhouette of the original "people's car."

This is a story about the Volkswagen Beetle, not the New Beetle, which is actually the old Beetle. But not the really old Beetle, the one designed by Ferdinand Porsche for Adolf Hitler prior to World War II. That’s because the old Beetle was actually called the New Beetle while this new Beetle is simply called Beetle. Or you can just call it Bug. Whatever is easier.

VW’s goal with the new Bug is to broaden its appeal beyond its mostly female base who loved the old car because of its iconic – and more importantly cute – styling.

Yeah, We're Cute!

So the new Beetle is less bubble-like. It’s wider and lower with a flatter roof. The front end is more aggressive. There’s a bit of wedge shape rising toward the back end. Inside, it’s not surprising that the flower vase is gone.

It’s a huge gamble. While sales had slowed, there was still a core group of people who were mesmerized by the cute-as-a-bug-in-a-rug styling. There have been plenty of slick wedges, but the New Beetle was different in a world of same. It’s still different, but a little more normal.

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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.

Reviews You Can Trust!

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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First Look: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle

The Bug is back.

by on Apr.18, 2011

VW returns to a more classic design with the 2012 Beetle.

It’s been nearly three-quarters of a century since the first Volkswagen Beetle made its debut – and more than a decade since the German maker unveiled the current Bug.  So there’s been plenty of anticipation building for the all-new model getting its global launch this week.

In an unusual, multi-city event linking New York, Shanghai and Berlin, Volkswagen today revealed an all-new “people’s car” that picks up on many of the cues of the original Beetle first launched in 1938.

Only the third complete remake in the model’s history, the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle will be displayed at both the New York and Shanghai auto shows, this week, as well as in Germany, where the original model was conceived as a low-cost way to put people on wheels.

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The look of the new car returns to the sort of 2-box design that gave the first-generation car such longevity.  The 1998 remake, while clearly influenced by the pre-War design, opted for a semi-circular shape that proved extremely polarizing.

“The new model should be able to help them attract the male buyers that didn’t warm up” to the model soon to go out of production, suggested Dave Sullivan, an automotive analyst with AutoPacific, Inc.

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