- - Thursday, July 21, 2011

When the first Beetle rolled off the production line, it was simply called the Volkswagen-“the people’s car”-but its distinctive shape inspired nicknames across the globe: Beetle, Kafer, Vocho, Coccinelle, Fusca, or Maggiolio. In total, 21.5 million cars were sold, making it the most popular car manufactured off a single platform of all time.

More than 60 years later, in 1998, the “New Beetle” rekindled the spirit and imagination of the original for a new generation of Volkswagen owners. This second-generation version sparked another round of “Beetle Mania”.

Now, the third-generation of the internationally beloved Beetle is ready for prime time, going on sale in the United States this fall. There will be two models at launch: the Beetle and the sporty Turbo. In 2012, a TDI Clean Diesel will go on sale, which is likely to be the most fuel-efficient Beetle ever made.

Only people who really know and respect the Beetle’s heritage could produce a new generation of this iconic vehicle. The task for Volkswagen’s design team was clear: develop a modern interpretation of the Beetle, with all the benefits of today’s technologies and safety features, along with the driving characteristics that define the Volkswagen brand. The result had to remain affordable and stay true to the Beetle’s spirit and great heritage.


It’s always hard to reinterpret an original. Think of classic designs such as the Coke bottle, the iPhone, Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses, the Porsche 911, a Leica camera, and The Beetle. How does one reinvent a look that is so recognizable and unique? Volkswagen Group Design Chief Walter de Silva and Volkswagen Brand Design Chief, Klaus Bischoff, welcomed the task and set about designing “a new original”.

The designers wanted to develop the new car around the earliest Beetle profile rather than the 1998 New Beetle. In short, they wanted a car that respects the past but looks toward the future. And that is what they created.

Placing the original Beetle and the 21st Century Beetle next to one another, it’s clear that the lines of the rear sections are nearly identical, but the overall look is bolder and more dynamic. The Beetle also breaks free of the design geometry defined by three semi-circles-front fender, rear fender, and domed roof above it. The roof profile actually runs distinctly lower and can be considered a development of the Ragster concept car shown in Detroit in 2005. As a result, the new Beetle is bolder, more dynamic, and more masculine.

“The Beetle is now characterized by a clean, self-confident and dominant sportiness. The car not only has a lower profile; it is also substantially wider, the front hood is longer, the front windshield is shifted further back and has a much steeper incline. All of this creates a new dynamism,” explains Klaus Bischoff.

The 2012 Beetle is 71.2 inches wide (3.3 inches wider), 58.5 inches tall (0.5 inches lower) and 168.4 inches long (6.0 inches longer). The new focal point is the C-pillar. The development team also increased the car’s track widths and wheelbase. The changed proportions give the Beetle a powerful and dynamic appearance.

A new feature is the rear spoiler that is standard on the 2.0 Turbo and is integrated into the design. The top surface of the rear spoiler is black, while the underside is painted in body color.

Klaus Bischoff characterizes the new Beetle’s interior thusly: “Its interior design is as unique as it is unmistakable, and very much a Beetle design, just like the car’s exterior styling.” The 21st Century Beetle’s styling, ergonomics and quality interact to create a new, friendly car with a highly individual nature. The shape and use of color for the painted or carbon-look dashboards harkens back to the design of the first Beetle.

Three round gauges are arranged in front of the driver (tachometer, speedometer, fuel gauge), providing all key information at a glance. A multifunction display is integrated in the speedometer, which is housed in the central position in the binnacle. The steering wheel is specially designed with optional painted accents in the spokes depending on the equipment line.

Framed by two air vents, the selected audio/navigation system is optimally located in the driver’s field of vision on the dashboard. Within easy reach, the climate controls are situated just below.

Similar to the original Beetle, the new car has an extra glove box integrated into the dashboard-the kaeferfach or “Beetle bin”. The lid folds upward, while the standard glove box opens downward. Another classic feature is the optional auxiliary instrumentation package sited above the audio/navigation system that consists of an oil temperature gauge, a clock with stopwatch function, and a boost pressure gauge.

Even though the “cathedral ceiling” dome roof of the New Beetle has been replaced with a sleek and sporty roofline, front and rear passenger headroom remains plentiful. The longer roof section results in 0.4 inches more rear-seat headroom. Front legroom is improved, too, by 1.9 inches, and front shoulder room grows by 2.5 inches. Overall, the interior volume has increased from 81 to 85 cubic feet.

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