The automobile industry’s stars aligned to make this year’s New York and Shanghai auto shows open on the same week, and because of this overlap, several new models were introduced almost simultaneously on separate continents.
Shanghai showcased more concept cars, while New York focused mainly on production models. But with oil prices off the charts (the average price for unleaded gasoline in the U.S. is nearing $4 per gallon) the common theme was fuel economy -- and not just for small economy cars, as even Porsche premiered a new hybrid model. There were also five major compact car debuts, and several major updates to various compact and subcompact models.
Of course, a few manufacturers (Chrysler, Jeep, and Shelby, to name them) didn’t get the efficiency memo and debuted hot rods and over-the-top muscle cars, just to keep us guessing (and scratching our heads). But those were the exceptions to the rule.
Volkswagen sold 23 million original Beetles, and 6 million in the United States alone. As a testament to the global market, the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle was unveiled nearly simultaneously in New York and Shanghai, with a third appearance in Berlin.
Sales of the New Beetle had stalled in recent years, so VW went back to the drawing board for only the third redesign in the car's 73-year history. Klaus Bischoff, head of design for the Volkswagen brand, sums up the new design in one word: "Masculine."
“We started from scratch,” Bischoff said. “We wanted to give it a whole new character, to make a dynamic, sportier, more masculine car.” The car eschews the three-circle simplicity of the outgoing model and its high roof. Instead, Bischoff looked back to the original Beetle, as designed by Ferdinand Porsche. “We had an original one in the studio,” he said. The hood of the new car is longer, the windshield moves rearward and rests at a lower angle, while overall width and length have increased. As a result, the car sports a hunkered-down appearance while remaining instantly recognizable as a Beetle.
The newfound machismo may come down to the 19-inch, 10-spoke wheels. “Big wheels are masculine,” Bischoff said. The interior also brings in exterior color in a similar fashion to the new Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper. The top-end TSI model is available with an XDS differential and traction control system. Luca De Meo, VW’s director of marketing says “it makes it sporty, like the Herbie in the movie." The standard engine will be a 2.5-liter, 170-hp four-cylinder and a 2-liter, 140-hp turbodiesel four-cylinder that gets between 29 and 40 mpg.