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Another icon has gone under the knife and emerged, well, only slightly differently iconic, but the changes made to the 2012 Beetle are only superficially slight. Volkswagen global marketing director Luca de Meo says of the car that was revealed simultaneously in New York, Berlin and Shanghai, "We worked on the entire packaging of the car, engine, trunk, interior, everything." Take a close look at it, and it's clear.
Marketing guru de Meo says VW laid out three objectives for the new hatchback: Bring back the spirit of the original, i.e., make it affordable, tough, and easy to use; reconnect with the emotion of the car; and bring the shape and concept of the original into the 21st century.
To achieve all that, Volkswagen's head of design, Klaus Bischoff, says they threw everything from the current Beetle out the window and had an original Beetle in the studio when they started the redesign in 2007. Working from those vintage cues, the 2012 car is stretched everywhere: it's 150 millimeters longer, 3.2 inches wider, and has a wider track. The bonnet is longer, a look exacerbated by the cabin being pushed back and the windshield being more upright and closer to the driver. The finished product even looks different compared to the car we saw in spy shots back in January.
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The window graphic has also been stretched and continues around the car in a more cohesive line. At the bottom, the car is lowered and the revealed hatchback wears oversized alloys. Bischoff says, "the masculine feeling we wanted to achieve is based on really big wheels." Inside, there are body-colored elements on the dash and steering wheel spokes, and ambient lighting that can be changed from red to white to blue.
But that bit about masculinity is the real takeaway. When de Meo lists the most important alterations to the "monument," they are the XDS electric front differential that make the Beetle "more nimble, agile – it makes it behave like the movie car Herbie;" the fact that the 200-horsepower turbocharged motor makes this a "toy for a boy;" and the Fender audio that includes some first-time features such as the Panasonic technology in the tweeters.
The aim is to communicate that the Beetle isn't just for women anymore. Even as the car is meant to be more emotional, VW USA head Jonathan Browning says the German automaker wants to keep the women who have sponged up the car, but expand its demographic and make the car more global. de Meo adds, "We want to make a statement without making compromises, to get out of niche and into core demand in many markets."
The 2012 Beetle will go on sale sometime in September or October, priced "very competitive in the mainstream of the marketplace" according to Browning.