WOLFSBURG -Volkswagen has a problem with the New Beetle. It has no accurate way of predicting future demand across Europe because the car does not conform to conventional market segment or buyer classifications.
While VW expects to add another 200 units of capacity a day at the Puebla, Mexico, plant to cope with orders, a final production decision is being delayed until the car has been on sale in Europe for a few months. The company wants to make sure that sales won't fall as quickly as they start.
'There isn't any mechanical segmentation for the vehicle,' says Volkswagen Executive Marketing Director Berthold Krueger. 'It's a highly emotional vehicle. People's reactions to it don't necessarily have anything to do with their experiences with the old Beetle. It doesn't even really fit into lifestyle categories.'
The Mexico plant currently builds 600 New Beetles a day. Around 200,000 inquiries for the vehicle have been registered across Europe - half of them from Germany.
In 1999 Europe will get 80,000 cars, with 45,000 going to VW's home market. Pricing across Europe will be similar to comparably equipped Golfs, although standard equipment levels on the New Beetle are higher. The car goes on sale in Germany in late November.
The new car will be offered with two engines - a 115hp, 2.0-liter gasoline engine and a 90hp, 1.9-liter diesel. Initially only a five-speed manual gearbox will be available, although a four-speed automatic will follow in early summer 1999. At some point next year the car will be offered with a 150hp 2.3-liter V-5 engine.
The first people to actually order the car will have to wait three or four months for delivery.
Krueger expects that about two-thirds of buyers will transfer from other cars in the Golf segment. Women are expected to buy more than half of the total and a little over a third of New Beetle buyers are expected to be under 30.
For most households (55 percent) the New Beetle is expected to be a second vehicle. That compares with only a third of Golf buyers. Future additional capacity for the New Beetle could come from either Wolfsburg or Puebla, said VW.