By Samuel Ee
The 21st century Volkswagen Beetle is closer to the original people's car of 1938 than its immediate predecessor was, says Volkswagen Group Singapore.
"It is not a niche model, but a useful car which can be used every day by anyone," said managing director Zeno Kerschbaumer. "It is much more masculine than its predecessor and fun to drive."
The third generation of the Bug is based on the same platform as the German carmaker's popular Golf hatchback, which means it will have an engine in front driving the front wheels, unlike the original which was rear-engined with rear-wheel- drive.
To be launched here next week with a 1.2-litre turbocharged engine and a list price of about $140,000 with COE, the latest Beetle is a "completely new interpretation of the original Beetle in design and spirit".
"The Beetle is a symbol of our brand, linking the emotional heritage of the original Volkswagen to the future of Volkswagen," says Dr Kerschbaumer.
He expects both younger buyers "with contemporary lifestyle attitudes", as well as more mature individuals who have had "positive experiences" with the original Beetle, to be drawn to this car.
"The Beetle is such an emotional car and its appeal transcends normal boundaries," he explains. "In particular, the Beetle will appeal to buyers looking for something sporty and individual, yet do not want to compromise on everyday practicality."
The new model also looks less feminine that its predecessor, whose rounded roof and wheel arches were characterised in print by three semi-circles.
The second-generation Beetle, known as the New Beetle, arrived here in 2000 with a 2.0-litre engine. The car was hugely popular with several hundred bookings at its launch. But some buyers later became dissatisfied with its pricing, after its almost $160,000 initial price was steadily reduced - the last version with a 1.6-litre engine was listed at just under $100,000. Its build quality was also an issue.
Nonetheless, Dr Kerschbaumer points to the New Beetle having been a big hit for customers around the globe as it had started a trend - "it was the pioneer of all retro vehicles, with over one million units sold worldwide".
As for the 21st century Beetle, it has "all of Volkswagen's latest technological innovations including TSI engines and DSG gearboxes, making it a very complete package at its price point".
He adds: "Customers will recognise this as an all-new car."
This article was first published in The Business Times.