OSLO - Volkswagen has raised a bureaucratic curtain to keep gray market New Beetles out of Europe.
The car is on sale now in the USA and Canada, but Volkswagen doesn't plan to import cars to Europe until November or December this year.
The New Beetle is hugely popular. North American dealers must wait six to nine months to get cars. Dealers are getting $5,000 premiums.
Such demand tempts private importers, but Volkswagen has gathered its forces against them.
Dealers in Canada and the USA have been told not to sell cars to foreigners.
Volkswagen has not filed for 'type approval' for the New Beetle in Europe yet, which means registration within EU countries is difficult and expensive.
Volkswagen has shown no interest in producing a Certificate of Confirmation, a vital document showing rights to a car.
'We will not start to import before November or December this year, so we see no reason why we should get type approval before that date,' said a Volkswagen spokesman. 'The final specifications for Europe have not been made.'
The German newspaper Bild-Zeitung attempted to import a car to Germany for testing and publicity. The weekly trade paper Auto-Bild, a sister publication, reported that Volkswagen executives insisted to customs officials that the car was illegal in Germany, and successfully prevented the import.
Dealers, especially across Canada, are receiving telephone calls from Europe asking for cars. Europeans generally prefer to buy cars in Canada, as instrument clusters are marked in kilometers.
Dealers have no trouble selling any cars they get to Canadians, so there is little incentive to go against Volkswagen's strong rules against selling cars to foreigners.
Executives at many dealerships in Canada said they would not sell to a non-resident.
Capacity for the New Beetle at Volkswagen's Mexican plant is 160,000 units next year, about half for Europe.
In Norway close to 500 people have signed up for the car. Customer No. 1 has waited three years for the car.