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New Beetle to be reborn again soon

Caption: A bug’s life: Volkswagen’s next Beetle should take design cues from the 2005 Ragster concept.

January should see the unveiling of Volkswagen’s second-gen 'New Beetle’ at Detroit

Volkswagen logo11 Oct 2010

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

TWO generations too old and so outdated that it is almost cool again, the New Beetle will finally morph into the New New Beetle next year.

Due to star in concept form at the Los Angeles motor show in November and in final production guise on Volkswagen’s Detroit motor show stand in January alongside North America’s Passat replacement – known as the New Midsized Sedan (NMS), the ‘New New Beetle’ will be an altogether sleeker and sportier proposition than the current, 12-year-old edition.

This is according to Volkswagen Group board member and product chief Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, who spoke to GoAuto just prior to this month’s Paris motor show.

3 center imageLeft: Volkswagen Ragster concept. Below: Volkswagen board member for development Dr Ulrich Hackenberg.

However, the long-serving Volkswagen and Audi product planner said that the Beetle “will still be a Beetle” – but one that is on an evolutionary path to the existing model created by chief Ford designer J Mays.

“Its design language will be based on the (classic) Beetle shape,” he said. “It will be more sporty, but it will still (look like) a Beetle… a little bit retro in design but also modern.” Asked if the New New Beetle overcomes the packaging limitations of the existing model, Dr Hackenberg said that engineers – rather than stylists – dictated the dimensions for the upcoming version.

“The history of the first (New Beetle) was that it started as a show car (in 1993) and this show car was made by the designers (who had a very free reign as far as form over function was concerned),” Dr Hackenberg said.

“And the technicians had to re-engineer that (1993 show car) and that was not so easy. So with the next car, it was based on an ‘engineering’ package so it has been much easier to do it.

“And I think the result from the styling side is that it is much, much better because there are not so many compromises.” Dr Hackenberg said that expectations for the new car will be considerably higher as a result of the new models’ improved functionality/styling compromise, with an emphasis on increasing the New New Beetle’s appeal among European buyers.

“We expect more volume, and we need a bigger range of customers, as well as a broader ‘character’ of customers than today,” he said.

“And we want it to sell (better) in Europe. We have had great success with the New Beetle in the USA and in Asia – with Asia getting more and more important over the last two years… (because) it is a different car it is a little bit crazy…” In fact, Dr Hackenberg believes that Asian markets will respond especially well to the look of the newcomer.

“If you look to Asia now, a lot of cars are very practical, but now they are starting to look for something different – and that’s why I think the (current) New Beetle is very successful now in Asia – so the next-generation model also has to be a little bit ‘crazy’.

The New Beetle is based on the 1997-2003 Golf IV platform that also spawned (among other models) the Audi A3, Audi TT, Seat Toledo II and first-generation Skoda Octavia.

With its conventional MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension system, it was never going to ride and handle with the finesse of some of its more sophisticated contemporaries like the BMW Mini.

However, while its replacement should be underpinned by the latest Golf VI (and Jetta) platform, it is thought that only premium versions of the new 2012 model – which could go on sale in Europe as early as May - will adopt a variation of the current Golf’s multi-link rear suspension design.

Therefore expect all models to have a longer wheelbase and wider wheel tracks, underneath a body that will continue to feature elements of the original Beetle – like round headlights and wheel-arches – alongside a roofline that is expected to be less rounded, as previewed by the 2005 Ragster concept.

Once again, along with the three-door hatch/coupe there will also be a two-door convertible version, while engine options will be hand-picked from the Golf/Jetta stable that includes 1.2, 1.4 and 2.5-litre petrol engines and, eventually, a hybrid version combining a 110kW 1.4-litre turbo engine with a 20kW electric motor.

The next Beetle is likely to continue to be built at Volkswagen’s Puebla plant in Mexico, which has produced more than one million Beetles, although VW hasn’t ruled out the possibility of it being built elsewhere.

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