Volkswagen unveils new electric Beetle in Detroit

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VW's E-Bugster concept. Image: Michelin Media/Flickr/CC ND

Volkswagen's E-Bugster concept. Image: Michelin Media/Flickr/CC BY-ND

Volkswagen will unveil the E-Bugster, a next-generation concept of the iconic Beetle, at the 2012 Detroit Motor Show Monday. The chopped design houses a new electric drivetrain. The concept is part of VW’s bid to become the world’s leading automaker. Some, say, however, that the design, striking as it is, is wrong-thinking in today’s market.

Beefier than 2011 Beetle

The revised Beetle has a lower, beefier look than the 2012 Beetle, thanks to the three-inch roof chop. The electric 114-horsepower motor uses a lithium-ion battery pack and has an estimated range of 100 miles. It can be charged slowly from a conventional outlet or quick-charged to 80 percent capacity in about half an hour.

An iconic model

There is perhaps no car more associated with its maker than the Volkswagen Beetle. The car was developed in Nazi Germany during the 1930s to be an affordable, basic car for the average working man. The Beetle was succeeded in 1974 by VW’s front-wheel-drive Golf. A New Beetle built on the Golf platform was re-introduced in 1998 to generally brisk sales.

Sales on the rise

After dipping through the recession, VW’s U.S. sales were up a hefty 23.6 percent in 2011. The 2012 version of the Beetle sold more than 16,000 units in just over two months.

A bid for market supremacy

According to AOL Auto, VW is making a bid to be the world’s leading automaker. At this time, General Motors holds that title and has for years. Toyota is number two. The Beetle revamp is a move in that direction, but is only one part of the effort.

Jonathan Browning, Volkswagen of America’s chief, said:

“We are definitely being more responsive to the needs and wants of American drivers, which are not the same as European drivers.”

The U.S. versions of both the Passat and Jetta, for example, are more roomy and quieter than the versions sold in Europe.

Not right for market, says critic

David Kiley, the author of “Getting The Bugs Out: The Rise, Fall and Comeback of Volkswagen in America,” believes the Beetle reboot may be a step in the wrong direction if VW wants to conquer the world. He said:

“The car itself is a fantastic reinterpretation of the original, but I’m not sure the design is what the market is looking for right now.”


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