LOS ANGELES - Four people lived in a New Beetle for two weeks in California, each trying to outlast the other to win the car.
Movie star Tom Cruise and tennis celebrity John McEnroe are driving New Beetles. Some US Volkswagen dealers have held New Beetle parades when they got cars.
The New Beetle went on sale in March, and 'it has created the most amazing buzz,' said dealer Mike Sullivan, of Volkswagen Santa Monica. 'There's an energy to it. It's really weird.'
Dealers have little New Beetle inventory. Instead, they have long waiting lists. Some customers are buying New Beetles at suggested retail price, but others are paying anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 on top of the sticker.
While some customers are willing to wait for a specific color or certain optional equipment, '75 percent of our customers want it now,' Sullivan said. 'It makes you a celebrity.'
Driving a New Beetle is not for the introvert. Other drivers smile, wave or flash an enthusiastic 'thumbs up.' In parking lots, they strike up conversations.
Sullivan is not worried about the New Beetle's staying power. 'It's such good value,' he said, and it cuts across all demographics.
The New Beetle is also proving to be a magnet for other Volkswagen cars, said dealer Steve Lewis, of Bob Lewis Volkswagen in San Jose, California. 'Our Golf sales have doubled since the New Beetle arrived.'
Volkswagen sold 2,365 New Beetles in the USA in March, and about twice as many in April. A New Beetle with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine and manual transmission has a suggested retail price of $15,700.
Many of the initial New Beetles left the factory equipped with the $410 optional sports package that includes six-spoke alloy wheels with VW logo hub caps and front fog lamps.
At the end of April there were about 2,500 New Beetles in dealer stock, said Tony Fouladpour, spokesman for Volkswagen of American Inc., and another 5,000 are in transit to dealers.