Remember when you first saw one? Volkswagen’s Beetle in all its incarnations has captured a unique corner of American culture, if not the world over and it’s time to get the ball rolling once again with a new generation – the 2012 New-new Beetle.
You may have seen the Super Bowl commercial or the Oprah giveaway. There aren’t two bigger and traditionally opposite facets of American audiences to help create frenzies. But is this 2012 Beetle worth the hype? VW is making it seem that way. Overall sales are up 17% from last year, and 2010 sales were the best since ’03. VW feels good, and their time is right for a new version of the world’s longest and most manufactured car. Yet, so far, salivating fans are teased with nothing but Hitchcock-ian outlines (Unless familiar with search engines). Rumor is we will get the first ‘official’ view at the New York Auto Show in late April.
Curiosity for a new version of such a beloved vehicle is typically a big event, but the Beetle holds a unique, almost cultish quality defined by longevity and uniqueness.
The third generation has some living up to do, as its siblings demonstrate:
1938 - The original and most iconic so far. It’s that first love thing, right? 21.5 million sold over 58 years means that its image, quality and kitsch advertising connected with buyers across varied audience markets.
1998 – The New Beetle and its modernized, bubblier persona is a hit, especially in the US with 1.2 million sold over 12 years. Owners are smitten; VW is happy.
2009 – Less than 15,000 New Beetle US units sold, worst since its introduction; buyers find love elsewhere: Competitors (namely Mini Cooper) seduce buyers.
2011 – The 21st century Beetle- It’s a Beetle, but it’s not.
That’s the slogan. Cue more mystery.
This time VW is going for less cute and more aggressive, broadening appeal for potential buyers. The 2012 version, not to be confused with the ragster concept version, is a variation from the New-now-old-Beetle; however it maintains enough ‘Beetle appeal’ to keep current clientele interested and away from potential imitators.
Technically, here’s what to expect:
-US buyers have 3 engine choices: 170 HP 2.5-liter five-cylinder, 200 HP 2.0-liter turbo unit, and the 140 HP 2.0-liter turbo-diesel- a perk for fuel efficient drivers.
-Suspension components mirror the current Golf while transmission-wise it’s manual or dual-clutch automatic (up to 7 speed).
-Physically it’s ‘sporty’ and ‘sleek;’ translating to a less bulbous look with a flatter roof and more upright windshield, creating less front overhang. Add a wider track along with 3.5 inches in length to allow for a rear with more cargo space.
-Interior space is apparently roomier and features a touchscreen system, Bluetooth and branded audio system.
-Performance options will include dual exhaust, larger 19 inch alloy wheels, stiffer suspension and racing seats.
The wait is on and the question remains: Will this Beetle be able to keep its cool factor?