Pulling a Rabbit out of the hat could be marketing magic for Volkswagen - if U.S. execs have learned from the less-than-stellar performance of the New Beetle.
This time, Volkswagen needs more than just baby boomer nostalgia.
Kerri Martin, VW's director of brand innovation, will need to see to that.
The Rabbit name wasn't around long enough to build up the same kind of cult following as the Beetle. It was a front-wheel-drive hatchback for practical people who demanded fuel efficiency.
As a result, the Rabbit's quality issues were irritating, not quirky and lovable. That's another potential problem; ask anybody who owned one.
The Rabbit went on sale in late 1974 as a 1975 model when the OPEC oil embargo made everybody think about fuel economy. It was sold only until 1984. When the second version arrived, it was christened the Golf, which it has been for two decades and two more model changes.
As of last October, there were still about 66,500 Rabbits on the road in the United States, according to R.L. Polk & Co. About 40 percent had diesel engines.
A friend who worked at Volkswagen of America in the mid-1980s says the name change was Jim Fuller's idea. Fuller, who was VW's U.S. honcho, wanted to leverage Volkswagen's German heritage. So when the second-generation car came to America, he insisted it have the same name as the car sold in Europe and everywhere else.
Sadly, Fuller was one of the VW execs killed when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
Fuller might not have approved of using the Rabbit name on the new car when it goes on sale this summer. But the new model will share something else with the original: an optional diesel.
Depending on what happens with gasoline prices, that could be the real magic trick.
Edward Lapham writes five commentaries each week for autonews.com. You can read them at autonews.com/edwardlapham.