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A Beetle is a Beetle!

Posted by Pat on January 4, 2014 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (0)

If you read my previous blog enrty, you will learn of my reaction to those who claim that cars of today will never get the chance to become classics. I stated that many in the American muscle car genre of automotive collecting feel this way. Just recently, it's been sadly revealed to me that this isn't the only crowd to embrace the notion that our cars are for all intents and purposes disposable. Of all the different groups of people dedicated to one car or another, one would think that the old school of air-cooled VW enthusiasts would at least appreciate our passion for what are clearly the Beetles of today, and moreover, the Beetles of the past 16 years. I'm really not trying to generalize here, but it's quite difficult not to. Allow me to elaborate:

 

Right around Christmas, 2013, I posted a question in the air-cooled section of VW Vortex, a huge website for VW enthusiasts, and for all I know, the "Tex" could very well be the largest such website on the planet. I asked a simple question, and it was directed to those whom I presumed to be experts in all all things pertaining to original Beetles. I wanted to know if anybody could provide an educated estimate as to how many of these classic Beetles were still in service today.

 

Well, I guess I should have left it at that, but I didn't, and as one NewBeetle.Orger stated so eloquently, I may as well have walked into a pack of starving dogs wearing nothing but Milk Bone underwear! You see, following the intial inquiry, I commented on how puzzled I was that aftermarket suppliers all but ignore New Beetles while they carry every part imaginable for the old air-cooleds. After all, I added, a Beetle is a Beetle, whether it's a 1951 Split, a 1956 Oval, a 1967, a Super Beetle, a 1999 New Beetle GL, or a 2013 Beetle Turbo.

 

Well, let's just say that this didn't set well with these rabid air-cooled devotees, and if any of you have been regular readers of my blogs, it should come as no surprise that their replies didn't set well with me, either. Not well at all..........There's a reason that I say many air-cooled guys are stuck in 1967. Because they are! The verbal exchanges of ideals commenced. After a couple of days, I grew weary and dropped out of this heated discussion, and right now, as you're reading this, it's a safe bet that they are all laughing and talking about what an idiot I was. Here are some highlights:

 

One guy immediately went into the standard cliches, and dare I say, drivel, we've all heard about "chick cars" and "reskinned Golfs." I won't even discuss the "chick car" stereotype, but so what if the New Beetle is in fact a reskinned Golf? Weren't Karman Ghias, Buses, and Type IIIs essentially reskinned Beetles? What's their point? Platform-sharing is a good thing. It cuts costs and therefore increases profits.

 

 

Another said that New Beetles will never be the iconic car that the original was, and that they're simply throwaway appliances that share the same name and nothing else. I'll go along with the "nothing else" part, for the Beetle was completely redesigned for this century, but to deny that these are in fact the Beetles of today is incomprehensible, one-dimensional, and downright pompous. Would they also deny that a 2009 Mini Cooper is not a Mini while a 1959 model is?

 

Yet another said that while the original Beetle was built to last, the Beetles of today are destined for that one-way trip to the scrapyard once the electronics and/or hardware is shot, just as the aforementioned muscle car guys on MSN said, and will therefore never become collectible or show-worthy in any capacity. As I said above, it's not 1967 or even 1977 anymore. The old air-cooled Beetle has already been discontinued in Mexico for the past 10 years, and moreover, for 35 years in the US. In 1998, a brand new, reinvented Beetle returned with features that people of the past 16 years have come to expect, and while some air-cooled guys may prefer their Bugs over today's versions, it really irks me when they refuse to acknowledge that  regardless of different it may be from the original models, today's Beetle is what it is: an updated contiunation of an iconic nameplate.

 

A select percentage of this new generation of water-cooled Beetle owners will become nostalgic for their cars just as their predecessors did with the original models. I'm on an unending mission to increase these numbers, and that's what clubs like North Country Water Beetles are all about.

Planned Obsolescene? Never

Posted by Pat on November 12, 2013 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

It's been a while since I've posted a blog here, but a recent experience compelled me to put down some thoughts. So I'll cut right to the chase while my blood is still boiling.

 

My homepage is MSN.com. That's where I get all my news, celebrity gossip, human interest stories, weather forecasts, and well, you name it. Recently, an article caught my eye. It was an author's prediction of what cars of today would be classics 20 years from now, in 2033. While I was pleased to see one Volkswagen make the list (the GTI), I was disappointed to see that today's take on the iconic Beetle was noticeably missing, and I posted a comment to that affect.

 

The mudslinging began almost immediately. There are just some people out there that are really closed-minded on this topic. We're talking specifically about the American born and bred muscle car crowd. You know. The types that refuse to trim their Elvis sideburns and still put enough Vitalis in their hair to lubricate the chains of any given set of 10 Harley-Davidsons. These are the individuals that worship Camaros, Firebirds, GTOs, Roadrunners, Mustangs, Corvettes and the like and go out of their way to disrespect anyone that so much as suggests that anything not built in Detroit could possibly be labeled as a classic automobile. The younger ones in this group likely sport mullets and christen themselves as kings of their trailer park and bitch incessantly about making that monthly child support payment because it cuts into their beer budget.

 

Let's just say I can be just as sophomoric as these guys when provoked. That's the beauty of Internet dialogue, for there is no fear, no danger of physical repercussion. Like the Colt .45 pistol of the Old West that suddenly made every man the same size, the World Wide Web gives everyone equal portions of verbal testosterone.

 

However, as I ventured beyond these child-like exchanges of words and ideals, I came across a recurring theme that proved to be quite disturbing. Many people taking part in this heated discussion stated that no cars of today, regardless of model or make, will become classics because they won't be around! They claimed the onboard computers modern-day cars are equipped with, in addition to the many plastic trim pieces used in construction, will make virtually every car a throw-away, disposable commodity. What we're talking about here is planned, intentional obsolescence. Once that software is outdated, your car becomes as quaint as a cassette tape or a rotary telephone, doomed for that one-way trip to the scrap yard.

 

I for one refuse to believe this. Are these people serious? Today's cars are light-years ahead of their earlier predecessors. If you're as old as I am, you can remember when any car showing more than 100,000 miles on the odometer was on borrowed time. I'll be the first in line to plead mechanical ignorance. Face it. I love water-cooled Beetles, but I can't even change a spark plug, and that's the beauty of today's cars with onboard computers. For simpletons like me, there's perhaps nothing easier than seeing a light come on when some component needs attention and promptly taking the car to the dealership or someone well-versed in codes to fix the problem. Paired with adhering to the maunfacturer's recommended maintenance schedules, there is a reason today's cars will routinely go 200,000 or even 300,000 miles and beyond. Can the same be said about the muscle cars of 40-50 years ago, or for that matter, any car, particularly if it was made in America during that era? This is precisely why today's cars will become tomorrow's classics, and rather than fade into oblivion, will be a staple at car shows far longer than their ancestors to boot.

 

Here's a news flash: Despite the fond memories, the nostalgic aspect of living in a simpler time of backyard do-it-yourself mechanics, it's not 1973 anymore. Onboard computers are here to stay. Moreover, nobody from today's most rabid automotive enthusiasts to the Average Joes and Josephines that view their rides as nothing more than appliances will be willing to fork over $30,000 only to have their purchase hauled away to a salvage yard once the onboard software happens to show its age. Did it ever occur to these good old boys that everything with software within its confines, from PCs to smartphones, come with available upgrades to keep up with ever-changing technology? Do they actually believe that cars will somehow be excluded from this list?

 

If you ask me, these people living in some bizarre, fanciful, anachronistic Smokey And The Bandit singularity need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Out with the old, in with the new!

Posted by Dustin Matteson on November 10, 2013 at 4:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Time to start the year end wrap up. This was a great year for us. We attended three VW car shows, and saw the New Beetle presence increase. At each show, where normally there were one to three New Beetles, there were, anywhere from five to eight. 

Lets recap. My goals and hopes for this year:

1)TOD: this year I will be representing the club at the TOD get together in Bryson CIty, North Carolina the first weekend of May. Look for a photo album in the days to follow!

2)Roswell 2k13: our club will join the big New Beetle get together in Roswell, New Mexico the first weekend of June. Pat and I will be representing. Photos to follow.

3)We will be getting a new website. The design and all will remain the same, and the switch shouldnt be noticeable. I have the name northcountrynbc.org already paid for, so we might aswell use it. That and it sounds better. Along with the address change, we will have more storage and more bandwidth for increased traffic.

3)Our first annual scenic drive. This is in the planning stage, and the final details are being worked out, but it will be set for August or September. This will be a little weekend fling, maybe camping?

4)We are planning to represent the club at a couple auto shows in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Fliers will be availabe to all, both generic and state specific.

5) Talimena Scenic Drive. This will be our first time as a club, but the event will be in its second year. We are hoping for a good turn out this year.

We had quite a bit happen this year. Car shows, scenic drives.... 

1) TOD: This year I went to ToD, and met up with 30+ New Beetles/Beetles. What an amazing drive. 

2) While I was unable to attend Roswell, Pat went. 

3) A new site is still in the works. My best guess is around the turn of the year. 

4) Our first scenic drive was great. We dorve the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive in Eastern Wisconsin. We got lost with about 40 minutes or so left. Then we had dinner, and went home. I am thinking camping and a picnic  would be a great addition for next year. 

5)TSD was an epic success. Pat and I went along with 6 other ORG members, and 2 locals. We made our goal of 10 beetles. We are on a good track.


Looking ahead, we will be getting more meets scheduled, getting some events layed out, doing some charitable stuff, like food donations to a local food shelf, and Toys for Tots, and also some community thing like trunk or treat...

More details to come. Check the threads for info! 

Slowly but surely.......

Posted by Pat on June 22, 2013 at 6:40 AM Comments comments (0)

I tried to post the following thoughts over on the Org, and either nobody cares, they don't know how to respond, or perhaps both. As Dustin stated in the entry just below this one, there were five water-cooled Beetles at the Minnesota Bug-In. There are usually two or three. A couple of weeks later at the Chippewa Valley VW Show in Eau Claire, there were also five water-cooled Beetles. Prior to this year, mine was always the only New Beetle to enter, and before 2010, the first CVVWC show I placed a New Beetle in, there were none dating all the way back to 1999! I've been in a New Beetle since 2009, but I didn't purchase it until July of that year, so after my 1969 air-cooled's clutch and third gear were shot, I had no choice but to enter a 2007 Passat. If I recall, that car received exactly zero votes as anyone's 10 favorites............including me! Four-door sedans just don't go over that well at VW shows. Well, unless they're modded Jettas, that is. Don't worry, stock MK IV owners, for your day will come, and this brings me to the point of this piece.

Ever since the water-cooled Beetle arrived in 1998, many, if not most, VW clubs that put on shows have had a class for these cars. This has served as a double-edged sword of sorts, because your average New Beetle owner won't think to put these cars into VW shows, and hence the reason you'd be lucky to see two or three entered. On the other hand, since very few New Beetle owners would bother to enter, it made getting trophies a lot easier for those who did! Psychological a boost to the ego as this may be, the bottom line was that these few individuals, myself included, were merely "winning" by default.

And now, to the gist of this story: For quite some time, I've been predicting that water-cooled Beetles will eventually overtake old-school air-cooled versions at VW shows. Obviously, this hasn't happened yet. But.........provided that the modern Beetles at both Minnesota and Eau Claire weren't simply anecdotal occurences, this suggests that more owners are beginning to regard these cars as show-worthy, and it has to start somewhere, does it not?

Whether old-school die-hards want to hear it or not, the fact of the matter is that those who drive these vintage Volkswagens are aging along with the cars themselves.Within the next couple of decades, most if not all of even the youngest people that grew up in the rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive air-cooled models will be eligible for Social Security benefits. For now, air-cooled Beetles still outnumber post-1998 models by a huge margin at shows, but at the same time, pristine examples of air-cooled VWs are skyrocketing in price because the number of nicely-restored examples is shrinking. Already, as I post this, one can still see scores of air-cooled VWs at just about any given show dedicated to the German automaker, but a good half to two-thirds of them that show up have decidedly seen better days.

There's no question about it: The original Beetle was a great car for its day and remains Volkswagen's defining symbol, and that's despite the fact that more Golfs have actually been sold. However, the New Beetles from 1998-2010 (and now the 21st Century Beetles from 2012 onward as well) are light-years ahead of the original air-cooled Beetles. While 21.5 million air-cooled Beetles were built from 1938-2003 versus 1.6 million New Beetles and some 100,000 21st Century Beetles so far, water-cooled Beetles will last much longer before needing a complete restoration. The trick here is to get more of the Average Joes and Josephines out there to realize this and to stop regarding these modern-day interpretations of the iconic Beetle as "just another car." In 2023, just 10 years from this writing, the first New Beetles will be 25 years old and eligible for collector status.

Let's hope that it doesn't take that long to see more water-cooled Beetles at Volkswagen shows and gatherings. If what Dustin and I saw at Minnesota and Eau Claire is any indicator, the wheels have already been set in motion. And moreover, not a moment too soon.

2013 Minnesota Bug-In

Posted by Dustin Matteson on June 5, 2013 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (0)

This year marked North Country Water Beetles first attendance at a car show. On June 2nd, Twin Cities Volkswagen Club hosted their 27th annual Minnesota Bug-In. The show is free and open to all makes and models of Volkswagens. The Show started at 9am, in the Luther Westside Volkswagen parking lot. When you went up and registered, you recieved a ballot to vote for your favorite VW in each of the 30 something classes. Just about every VW model was represented; from the original Beetle to the iconic Bus and Vanagon; the classic Karmann Ghia to the Thing. But another great thing this year was class 2600, water-cooled Beetle 1998 and up. 

From what fellow club member, Pat, was saying, there are usually only 2 or 3 New Beetles that attend. This year, however, there were 5 in attendance. There was Me, in N00ber, a 2002 DYCC; a 2002 Uni-Red Turbo S; a 2010 Red Rock; Pat's 2010 Candy White; and a 2012 Denim Blue. 

The award ceremony started somewhere between 3 and 4pm. It was a long wait in the sun for them to go all the way from class 100 to class 2600. Finally after all the waiting it was our turn. I had my fingers crossed.  The winners of class 2600 was the 2012 in second, and the 2010 Red Rock in first. I was saddened, but, this was only the beginning, as this was my first show and I now know more about what it takes to make a car more showy. :) 

All in all, this was a great experience, and we managed to hand out some fliers. We personally handed out 3 and had 2 out of 5 remaining on my windshield at the end of the show. I made some cool new friends, and look forward to 2014, and June 15 for the CVVWC car show in Eau Claire. 

Please check out the photo gallery for some pictures from the show. 


Peace. Love. Dub.

(O)\_(vw)_/(O)

Fix or Wait? The Burning Question

Posted by Pat on April 9, 2013 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I became a New Beetle guy back in July of 2009. At that time, I had owned a 1969 air-cooled Beetle that I used for shows with my local all-VW club for the previous six years.  Okay, try to envision what follows, and while this may be hard to believe, it's nevertheless true. I'm not your typical car club member. And what makes me unusual? I possess the mechanical knowledge and skill of a mentally-challenged gerbil. To this day, I don't  even change my own oil, let alone know anything about the workings of our beloved Volkswagens. I just grew up with them and love them. As for fixing them when something goes wrong, I leave that to the pros. It costs money, of course, but I have no problem with that...or, well, any choice.

At any rate, that 1969 Beetle was great for about two of those six years, but as for the remaining four? Not so much. I went through three engines, numerous points/rotors, and finally, a clutch and transmission. Needless to say, each time one of these mishaps occured, I was left stranded, oftentimes miles from nowhere. When finding yourself in such predicaments repeatedly, there comes a time when enough is enough. Basically, the moral here is that, based on my lack of mechanical aptitude, I had no business driving a 40-year-old car with dated technology in the first place. If air-cooled Beetles were still being sold as new cars, that would have been different, because I would have simply had the dealership take care of preventative maintenance to avoid those situations altogether, but when most of the technicians weren't even born when the last air-cooled Beetle rolled out of a US showroom, this posed a problem!

I loved Beetles. I grew up in my dad's 1957 Oval Window as a child in the 1960s, but by 2009, much more dependable and technologically-advanced water cooled Beetles had been out for over a decade, and it was decidedly time to make the switch. So I did. I sold the 1969 Bug to a fellow club member for $3000 and used the money for a down payment on a 2000 Cyber Green GLS with 70,000 miles with an asking price of $6995.  All the while, I also had my daughter in mind. In 2009, she was only 13, but in just a few years, she would be driving herself. I also hoped she would follow in her dad's footsteps by driving Beetles. Cyber Green happened to be her favorite color, the price was right, and the deal was made. I financed the remaining balance. It was paid off and I have yet to experience any mechanical problems whatsoever.

Time marched on. I will admit that although I had no mechanical issues, I have had a few panels repainted. Cyber Green was discontinued in the 2005 model year and this particular color was notorious for fading. That would have been OK if the paint had all faded evenly, but in the case of this car, the roof and rear trunklid were about two shades lighter than the rest of the panels, so I had Abra Auto Body, an excellent shop in Eau Claire, respray those areas. I also made the mistake of driving over a fire pit at a KOA campground and scuffed the front bumper, which Abra also repainted.  Well, my daughter turned 16 in November, 2012, and now she drives this Beetle. I replaced my 2007 Passat with a 2010 Beetle in Candy White. After all, I had to have another Beetle, you know?

As anyone in these parts knows, this winter has been brutally long, cold, and miserable. Even at this writing a third of the way through April, there's still snow on the ground, and some of those drifts in parking lots may not be gone until June. Until very recently, it's been far too cold to clean my Beetles properly, but I tackled my daughter's Beetle last weekend, and while the interior is now so clean you could eat off of it, I discovered something that didn't please me at all: A major gouge measuring a good two feet now runs from the right front bumper into the fender!  Best guess? This will cost about $800 to fix.  I can't blame my daughter, because I still drive this car from time to time, and she would have told me if she had knowingly scraped it up against something. I'm assuming that either one of us could have brushed against a snowbank or that a stray shopping cart or hit-and-run was the culprit. I'm just mad at myself for not noticing it sooner, but when parts of your car are covered with snow six months out of the year, it can happen.

But.....based on the way my daughter neglected the interior with sticky soda residue, empty Starbuck's cups, straw wrappers, mud, candy, bobby pins, hair ribbons, coins, and even dirty clothes from sleepovers with friends, plus a badly scratched dashboard that I suspect is the result of teenagers placing their feet upon it, I have to make a decision here.  Should I spend the money to fix these things now, or should I wait until she moves on to another car?

Make no mistake: These things will get fixed in time. This is a Beetle, and I can't  allow myself to let any Beetle become a beater. However, I'm leaning towards waiting. Otherwise, it would be sort of like planning a picnic when there's a 90% chance of rain ........! 

2013 - A year of greatness planned!

Posted by Dustin Matteson on March 18, 2013 at 4:50 AM Comments comments (0)

While the year is off to a slow start, I am excited for all that we have planned. This is a year of firsts, all of which I am proud to announce. 

1)TOD: this year I will be representing the club at the TOD get together in Bryson CIty, North Carolina the first weekend of May. Look for a photo album in the days to follow! 

2)Roswell 2k13: our club will join the big New Beetle get together in Roswell, New Mexico the first weekend of June. Pat and I will be representing. Photos to follow.

3)We will be getting a new website. The design and all will remain the same, and the switch shouldnt be noticeable. I have the name northcountrynbc.org already paid for, so we might aswell use it. That and it sounds better. Along with the address change, we will have more storage and more bandwidth for increased traffic. 

3)Our first annual scenic drive. This is in the planning stage, and the final details are being worked out, but it will be set for August or September. This will be a little weekend fling, maybe camping?

4)We are planning to represent the club at a couple auto shows in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Fliers will be availabe to all, both generic and state specific.

5) Talimena Scenic Drive. This will be our first time as a club, but the event will be in its second year. We are hoping for a good turn out this year.

There are probably more things I forgot, heck its 4am, and I havent been to bed yet! HA!! :) Anyway, I am thankful for all of you and cant wait to spend this year with you! We are also working on getting down to our Iowa members and our 1 Nebraska member! :)


Alright, time to wrap it up, I need sleep! Its sure to be a great year, lots planned, and more coming! Good night!! :)

Don't try this.............

Posted by Pat on February 1, 2013 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

We love our Beetles, and as such, one can readily assume that we also want them looking as nice as possible for as long as possible. Well, when you live in the North Country, this can prove to be a seemingly unending task. Six months of winter annually equates to lots of snow, ice, and worst of all, road salt. While this chemical mixture greatly improves navigating the roadways from around November to April, it also makes our prized cars look awful, and if you're like me, you can only put up with this for so long. Fortunately, Eau Claire, Wisconsin has an abundance of good automatic car washes, so this unsightly combination of slop, grime, and salt that collects on our cars this time of year can readlily be removed every week or so with a nominal investment of about ten bucks and a few short minutes, provided you avoid places with waiting lines that could rival your typical McDonald's drive-up at high noon.....

If the snow and ice weren't enough of a headache in the winter, something else can add to the misery. I'm talking about the cold. Not 25 or 30 degrees, but the really bitter cold that makes your fingers and toes burn if you're not bundled up like a research scientist on the Antarctic continent. This refers to the subzero temperatures that can exist anytime from December all the way up into early March, particularly at night.

Now I'll get to the point. I always wondered why most car washes are out of service once the temperature falls below about 10 degrees and I recently learned the answer to this question the hard way. No matter how powerful that dryer is at the end of the wash cycle, your car will still have hidden collections of water in any number of locations. In the case of my 2010 Beetle, I couldn't stand the way it looked one recent January evening, so I decided to seek a carwash on the way back home from the grocery store. It also happened to be a balmy 12 degrees below zero outside. Finding an open carwash proved to be difficult, but I finally spotted one, placed an Alexander Hamilton into the machine, and entered.

Remember that hidden collection of water I spoke of above? In my case, some got into my driver's door handle, and as I exited the carwash and re-entered the frigid air outside, it froze instantly, but I wouldn't learn of this revelation until several hours later when I tried to get into my Bug to drive to work. The handle wouldn't budge. Fortunately, my passenger door handle didn't suffer the same fate, so for the next two days, I had to open the passenger door, reach across, and open the driver's door from the inside to get in. Suffice to say, this situation fell a bit short of being convenient. Once time permitted, I drove the Beetle to my local VW dealership, where the service personnel graciously allowed me to park inside until the affected door hande thawed out.

As a lifelong resident of northern climes, I really should have known better in the first place, especially in light of the fact that I've been a licensed driver since Gerald Ford sat in the White House, but rather than plead ignorance, I'll say I was overly optimistic instead. Deep down, I knew that something like that could happen, but I refused to believe it would happen to me.

So what is the message here?

If you live in the north as most if not all members of NCWB do, don't assume as I did. No matter how bad your car looks on the outside, avoid washing it when the temperature is that cold. If you live in the warm, sunny south and happen to be visting this part of the country, take heed as well. Subzero temperatures and carwashes simply don't mix!

More Thoughts..........

Posted by Pat on January 12, 2013 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I was inspired to write something here after reading an interesting thread on the Org. A member of that site had his NB featured in an old issue of Performance VW magazine. I had almost forgotten, but my 2000 Cyber Green NB appeared in the November 2012 issue of Hot VWs. Before you get excited, however, it was merely in a background shot in an article that covered Mid America Motorworks' annual Funfest for Beetles in Effingham, Illinois.

This brings up two points that reinforce my pleas for water-cooled Beetles, or for that matter, other factory stock VW models, to get more respect.

First of all, there are a few VW magazines out there, but they are decidedly dedicated to either the old school air-cooled scene or to heavily modded and tricked-out Golfs, Jettas, GTIs, etc.  Why is it that air-cooled Beetles, Buses, Karman Ghias, or Type IIIs, are the only stock Volkswagens that magazines such as Hot VWs bother to cover?  One could readily respond with something like this:

"Well, that's easy. They're classics."

In other words? They're old, and indeed, the Split Windows that remain are now past their 60th year on the road and it won't be long before the Oval Window Bugs also reach that milestone.  And yet, here's the problem: Hot VWs has been around at least as long as it's been since I was a high school kid back in the 1970s. In fact, the original Beetle was still being sold here in the US well after this magazine came out. So why doesn't Hot VWs feature water-cooled Beetles as well? If it's a question of age, then a bias clearly exists. For example, let's go back 40 years to 1973. That was around the time I picked up my first issue of this publication. It was really cool seeing pictures of Beetles from the 1950's because they looked a bit different. But.....in 1973, these cars were either still in their teens or at most, a little over 20 years old.  The first New Beetles arrived in 1998. That was 15 years ago, so why aren't they featured today like 15-year-old Beetles were back in 1973?  For comparison, it makes one wonder if anyone with a pristine Mustang built after 2000 or so also gets snubbed by magazines that cater to Mustang enthusiasts. See where I'm coming from?

And, while we're on the topic, why is it that water-cooled Volkswagens, Beetles or otherwise, have to have a minimum of $10,000 worth of modifications before anyone will give them a second look at shows?  Sorry, but I just don't get it.  Sure, one could argue that stock VWs can be  seen every day, but that was true back in the 1970s as well, and as pointed out above, this didn't stop magazines such as Hot VWs from featuring them. It's as if some prophet  had a crystal ball in those days and predicted that once Volkswagen did away with air-cooled engines mounted in the rear, nobody would care unless they were adorned with chips, body kits, and a stereo with enough bass response to rattle your chest from a distance of six blocks.  Suffice to say, I  must be different, and I can't help but think I'm missing something here.

Will the day ever arrive when automotive writers see the water-cooled Beetle as a logical and evolutionary continuation of the legendary Bug? To illustrate. let's suppose that Ford suddenly decided to resurrect the Model T in 2014. Does anyone really think that Ford would continue to have a hand-crank engine with 20 horsepower and a top speed of 40-45 mph?  No air-conditioning, no antilock brakes, no cruise control, and any color you wanted as long as it was black?

The iconic Mini Cooper was reborn in 2004 and has been very popular, and one thing's for certain: they don't carry over 1967 technology. There are clubs all over the country. I cannot reiterate this enough: New Beetle and 21st Century Beetle owners must realize what they have, and that's a modern-day version of one of the most beloved cars the world has ever seen. But sadly, until they do, the bias at VW events will continue to exist.

Thus, the purpose of this club is to get water-cooled Bug owners to be proud of what they have, to acknowledge this great car's heritage, and to let others in the Volkswagen scene know that a bone stock 2013 2.5 auto or a 1998 Base GL is just as worthy as that vintage 1951 Split Window, 1966 1300, or 1973 Super Beetle.

The defense rests.

21st Century Beetle off to a good start

Posted by Pat on January 4, 2013 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

As Beetle enthusiasts, it goes without saying that we all breathed a collective sigh of relief once Volkswagen confirmed that the iconic Beetle would soldier on after the New Beetle's 1998-2010 run. Truth be told, it was questionable for a while. First came the news that a "Final Edition" of the New Beetle would be produced in the 2010 model year. This sounded so, well, final, and at the time, automotive publications didn't help matters. Many stated that a Beetle replacement was forthcoming, but no other details were given. This proved to be quite confusing. Did this mean that there would be a "new" New Beetle, or, in the worst case, that a completely different car with a different look and name would be built? Nobody, save for perhaps a few insiders at VW, knew for certain.

As for the guesswork game, it was a mixed bag. Some people were convinced that the "Final Edition" meant just as the name implied. Translation? The end of the Beetle. After all, the last air-cooled Beetles in the Mexican market also had a Final Edition and they were painted the same color to boot. Others? Well, they refused to believe that Volkswagen would kill the beloved Bug once again as they did in 1979. After all, the New Beetle was a clear success and was pivotal in VWoA's comeback. In case you didn't know, VW seriously considered pulling out of the US when sales plummeted to less than 50,000 units in 1993. I for one belonged to the latter persuasion. With that said, it wasn't long before a few others in agreement began to employ their imaginative skills and produce speculative renderings of the next Beetle. Some were very cool while others were absolutely dreadful. These sketches were placed all over the Internet, particularly on the NewBeetle.Org website. Regardless of whether or not a certain design grabbed you, the waiting game began and would last for months.

Finally, early on in 2011, we all got the answer we were waiting for: The Beetle would live on. Soon afterwards, "official" drawings were released. Now, the pressing question at hand was: Would it sell? As with any reskinned model, some people loved the 21st Century Beetle at first sight while others preferred the rounder look of the previous New Beetle. In any case, the newest version of the Beetle finally hit showrooms, stripped of its previous "New" label in the fall of 2011. And then came the scary part, at least as far as I was concerned..........

Sales were off to a slow start. A very slow start, when taking into consideration the fact that the New Beetle of 1998 sold like hotcakes and brought the most people to VW showrooms since the 1970s. As already mentioned in a previous blog entry, dealerships jacked up the price and placed people who badly wanted one on waiting lists. In some cases, delivery time exceeded a year! By the end of 1999, over 160,000 New Beetles had been sold. Conversely, at the launch of the 2012 Beetle, much smaller numbers were sold. For the first few months, it looked as though Volkswagen would struggle to see 15,000 Beetles go out the door in its first year of production. This genuinely appeared to be a very grim sign. In fact, I wondered if the latest Beetle was a flop!

I posted these concerns on the Internet and got mixed responses. Of course, VW bashers agreed with me. A few enthusiasts thought I was an idiot and proceeded to verbally attack me for comparing the latest Beetle's sales with the previous generation. They did have one valid point: When the New Beetle arrived in 1998, it was the first time a brand new Bug was available in the US for 19 years and that the novelty had worn off over a decade earlier. Therefore, I couldn't expect the 2012 Beetle to enjoy the same fanfare as the first water-cooled Beetles of the late 1990s had. Nicer, and shall we say, more civil responders explained that the production facility in Puebla, Mexico was having problems keeping up the demand for more high-end Turbo and sunroof models, and indeed, at launch time, most Beetles on dealership lots were Base 2.5s. Nevertheless, I thought the base models would still be selling well. After all, the 2.5 was no slouch, and it still held a long list of desirable standard features. And most significantly, they cost thousands less than the loaded Turbo models. In short, I thought most Beetle buyers were like me. I saw no need to fork over nearly $30,000 for 30 more horsepower, a sunroof, and a navigation system when a 21st Century Beetle could be had for around $21,000, 170 adequate ponies of motivation, a $7.00 Road Atlas, and a couple of open windows to let the sun shine in. And then, of course, there were those who were waiting for manual transmissions. While automatics suit me just fine, many people would beg to differ, I guess. In fact, I sincerely believe standard transmissions will go the way of the DoDo Bird within a few years, but that's another story.

At any rate, and most importantly, sales have indeed turned around since then. At this writing, 34,800 21st Century Beetles have been sold in the US since its launch around October of 2011. If you don't clump the Golf, GTI, and Golf R models together, this makes the Beetle Volkswagen of America's third bestselling car behind the more mainstream Passat and Jetta sedans. Suffice to say, I believe Volkswagen has learned from their grave mistake of killing the Beetle back in 1979 and this iconic nameplate isn't going anywhere. What one must keep in mind is that while 477,347 New Beetles were sold in the US from 1998-2010, nearly half of that figure was in the first 3 years of production. For the next nine years, the numbers tapered off. I don't believe this will be the case with the latest Beetle. Sales will be more steady as opposed to taking a schizophrenic roller-coaster ride. Morever, since more convertibles and TDI versions will hit showrooms later this year, we haven't seen Beetle sales peak yet, anyway.

It took me a while to learn this, but when it comes to a model's sales, slow and steady is a much-preferred course over a hot commodity that burns out too quickly. It kind of reminds me of a time some 20 years ago when I was in a bowling league. This guy on my team was a fair bowler with an average of about 150, but in our first week, he got lucky and averaged well over 200. Thus, his average was artificially inflated from the get-go and he couldn't maintain it. Instead, it dropped every week afterwards until his real average eventually resurfaced. This, in an analogy, is what happened to the New Beetle. One needs to keep in mind that this won't keep the 1998-2010 New Beetles from being a future staple at VW shows that will always be loved by Beetle enthusiasts, but I predict the 21st Century Beetle will be more like a Porsche 911 or a Ford Mustang, or for that matter, a Golf/Rabbit. Decades from now, it will still be recognizable with just a few cosmetic tweaks along the way and sales should never fluctuate any more than about 30% in either direction in any given year.

That, my readers and Beetle lovers, is the key to a car's success and longevity.


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