The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle that was revealed last week at auto shows in Shanghai and New York seems like a dandy upgrade of the New Beetle, which hit the scene in 1998.
Still, it's odd that VW is calling the newest incarnation simply the Beetle -- not the New Beetle like its immediate predecessor. OK, in a way it's understandable. If "New'' were part of the proper name it would sound funny to keep referring to the 2012 model as the new New Beetle.
Still, just plain Beetle seems wrong.
So why not call the 2012 model the New Super Beetle?
Trust me, it makes sense.
Having survived the Flower Power Era -- and all of the subcultural, uh, adventures that went along with it -- I know the difference between the front-engine/front-wheel-drive car unveiled last week and the rear-engine/rear-wheel-drive Beetle that my friend Cliff had back in the 1960s.
I know that automakers routinely hang old names on new models. Brand equity is important. I also realize that the original New Beetle, with its bud vase built into the dashboard, was a toy for middle-aged baby boomers.
It disappointed real Beetle veterans, like Cliff. When the fad fizzled, the New Beetle became a semistylish chick car.
The original Beetle was very basic, inexpensive transportation, which was what made it popular in developing countries and among impoverished students in the United States.
It was special. But along the way, the product planners in Wolfsburg realized that an improved Beetle was needed: bigger, more comfortable and with more get-up-and-go. So the Super Beetle was unveiled as a 1971 model.
Sound familiar? Of course it does!
The product planners in Wolfsburg realized that an improved New Beetle was needed: bigger, more comfortable and with more get-up-and-go.
So history repeated itself, which is why VW ought to call the 2012 model the New Super Beetle.