SEDONA, Ariz. - Frank Maguire was named vice president of sales for Volkswagen of America Inc. on Jan. 1. Maguire, 52, had been one of six regional team leaders in the field. He spoke with Staff Reporter Ralph Kisiel during a media event here for the New Beetle 1.8T. Here is an edited version of their exchange:
One year after launch, is Beetlemania beginning to wane in the United States?
No. We began sending cars in late October to Europe that were made in Mexico. So Europe is fighting for the production, we're fighting for the production and it has been a battle.
Can Volkswagen dealers get the New Beetles they want?
We struggled early on with the mix. The compliance with our orders today is much better. The dealer's opportunity to get the car that he ordered has been improving over the past several months. As a matter of fact, it gets better almost on a weekly basis.
Are there still areas of the country where it is difficult to get a New Beetle?
In the Southwest, you can't find a New Beetle anywhere. The guys in the Southwest region, from Texas to Arizona to California, they virtually sell everything that we send them immediately. Same in the Southeast. In the Northeast, it's not as bad. The message is that I don't believe New Beetle demand has lessened noticeably at all.
What is the natural demand for the car?
I believe around 70,000 a year in the U.S. That's what we're planning.
Who is the typical New Beetle buyer?
Of all the products we sell, it's the most difficult buyer to identify. They are all over the board. We've scratched our heads asking ourselves that question.
Can you do a New Beetle Rsi, like the concept unveiled in Detroit?
I'm told we're technically able to do it.
How are New Beetle sales in Germany?
We're told it is not going over as well in Europe as it did in the States. The Europeans felt that there was a possibility that it would have the same impact in their market as it did in the States. We have found so far that has not been true.
What about a New Beetle convertible?
A definite decision has still not been made on that car. But that's another opportunity to freshen, to recharge the New Beetle. We feel there's a good demand for that car. Dealer after dealer will tell you that he has open orders for that car if we're able to build it.