TOKYO - Japan will be a hot market for the New Beetle, Volkswagen executives predict, despite stagnant sales that have afflicted most automakers there.
'I think Japan has the potential to be the second-largest market for the New Beetle,' after the United States, said Martin Biswurm, VW Japan marketing general manager.
VW Japan took orders for 1,000 New Beetles when the car went on sale Sept. 18.
Initially Japan will get the left-hand drive version, priced at $22,760 to $27,525. A right-hand drive model arrives in early 2000. Volkswagen aims for sales of 2,000 New Beetles in Japan this year.
The New Beetle debuts at a time when Volkswagen has managed to buck the downward trend of Japanese vehicle sales.
Volkswagen Japan is on track to meet its sales target of 44,000 this year, chiefly due to popularity of the Golf and Polo.
That's up from last year's sales of 41,515 despite the weak Japanese car market, said Peter Nochar, executive vice president of Volkswagen Group Japan K.K.
The New Beetle and Bora are expected to sell well, but they were launched too late in the year to boost sales significantly.
VW Japan is aiming for sales of 2,000 Boras this year and 3,000 next year. The Bora is priced at $25,715 for the version with a 2.0-liter engine, and $30,950 for a 2.3-liter V-5 engine model.
Sales this year probably will be split 60-40 between the four-cylinder and five-cylinder versions, because of availability. Next year, the split is expected to widen to 70-30, Biswurm said.
Demand could change that. VW Japan originally expected only 5 percent of its Golfs to be sold in the turbo configuration, but turbos have accounted for 30 percent to 40 percent of all Golf sales in Japan.