Beetlemania is coming: VW plans a "new" New Beetle -- and a baby Bug

Yes, Deadheads, there is an MkII New Beetle. It's being developed on the sixth-generation Golf platform and may appear as a 2011 model. And Volkswagen's strategy for the iconic retromobile may extend even to adapting the Beetle's distinctive style to a North American version of the Up! minicar.

First, Volkswagen of America has confirmed it will import a version of the sixth-generation Golf. We'll have two models. The "base" Golf becomes the Golf GT, indicating VW plans to go upmarket again and get out of the $15,000 entry-car business here, at least for models imported from Europe. VW also will import the MkVI GTI, with both versions headed here about 2010.

The new New Beetle will come off that platform, in the 2010, or more likely, the 2011 calendar year and will include a hybrid version. VW would be smart, in fact, to make the MkII New Beetle hybrid-only, as its distinctive style lends it the same kind of instant recognition as the Toyota Prius. VW of America hasn't officially confirmed the next New Beetle, saying only that it's under study. But what does it need to study? Even with sales sliding to the low 30,000s as the current model has aged, it's selling at twice the rate of Golf/GTI sales in the U.S.

Volkswagen Up Beetle Illustration

Then comes the North American version of the Up!, which made its debut at the 2007 Frankfurt show. VW is rumored to be considering a Beetle-style version of the rear-engine, monobox/hatchback concept. Makes sense, since American consumers remain more nostalgic for the Beetle than they are practical about boxy hatchbacks. What's more, J Mays designed his Concept 1, for the 1994 Detroit show, to be built on the smaller Polo platform, not the Golf platform, so we know that adaptation of the New Beetle style to a smaller car is far from impossible.

Two distinct new (or New) Beetles amounts to a sub-brand for Volkswagen, which sold just 231,000 cars and trucks here last year. With the warm, fuzzy feeling people already have for the People's Car, positioning this sub-brand as highly fuel-efficient could be the best strategy VW has had for the U.S. market in a long time.
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First Drive: 2008 Volkswagen R32
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