So long to the New Beetle and its miserable 12-year run.
Turns out the second time’s not the charm.
VW’s New Beetle only lasted 12 years in production (2010 will be the final year; 1998 was the first year).
Though it arguably can be credited with almost single-handedly launching what became the “retro” trend in new car design — spawning similarly historically-minded new/old cars like the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevy SSR, Mini Cooper and (most recently) the revived Camaro — it never got its hooks into the public psyche the way its predecessor, the original Beetle did.
There were several reasons for this.
First, despite the generally familiar shape, the New Beetle was functionally nothing like the old one. It was built around a front-engined/front-wheel-drive layout while the old Beetle was, of course, rear-engined and rear-wheel-drive. The latter arrangement gave the old Beetle much of its charm — as well as desirable attributes that included impressive tenacity in snow because the weight of the engine was right on top of the drive wheels, which aided traction.
The New Beetle’s engine was also water-cooled (like almost all modern engines) and like all modern engines, it was a highly complex piece of machinery beyond the skill set (and tool set) of the average Do-it-Yourselfer. This meant that when the car needed work, a trip to the dealer was all but inevitable.
With the old car — powered by a 1930s-era air-cooled “boxer” flat four with a single one-barrel carburetor, single fan belt, no radiator or water pump and a screen for an oil filter that you removed by turning out a single easy-to-reach bolt on the bottom of the engine case — virtually all normal maintenance could be done in the driveway by any reasonably handy person with a few basic, inexpensive hand tools. This kept ownership costs low, which was always a key reason why people loved the old car so much.
Sure, it was slow and it leaked carbon monoxide into the passenger compartment (and water, when it rained). It was rust-prone and it often needed a turn of the screwdriver here or a trip to the NAPA store there. But it almost never cost you real money and while little troubles did pop up, they could usually be fixed — by you — in the space of 10 or 15 minutes. This was empowering, even if it was a minor hassle at the time.
Few things are more defeating in this life than being stuck by the side of the road with a dead car and no clue what to do as you wait helplessly for someone who does.
A final problem for the New Beetle was that in a market that craves change, the car was very hard if not impossible to update without it becoming something else entirely. The old Beetle was more or less the same for decades and no one minded because in those days, people were content with a slower pace and satisfied with the familiar — and with what did the job well enough.
That won’t sell today. The life cycle of a modern car is maybe four years before the market demands a major reworking, which amounts to a complete re-styling and re-engineering.
Not even Jaguars — formerly known for their ageless design that endured for decades, as in the case of the old XJ sedans — are safe from the march of time… and trendiness.
So when after three or four years on the market the New Beetle was still the same car it was at the beginning, people began to lose interest. After seven or eight years, it had become yesterday’s news, old hat — and no longer anything special or even especially interesting. And since it lacked the old car’s miserly virtues to sell it, sales began to collapse.
VW did make an attempt to inject some of the old car’s parsimony into the New by offering an advanced turbo-diesel engine. The problem was it cost a lot (close to $20k, new) which sort of defeated the whole purpose.
There was also a turbocharged sport version with a pop-out wing, just like a 911 Porsche. But that was a bad fit. A fast Beetle is a lot like a 4WD Corvette.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online