With a more refined and mature design, VW hopes the 2012 Beetle will appeal to customers globally.
Since the “New Beetle” debuted back in 1998, the design of the vehicle remained relatively unchanged for 13 years. Today, Volkswagen unveiled a major update to the automotive icon which they are calling “The 21st Century Beetle”. The debut took place simultaneously in Shanghai, Berlin, and New York.
Actual work on the third generation redesign had been underway since 2007. Speculation was that the new design would follow ideas shown on the 2005 Beetle Ragster Concept. Volkswagen Brand Design Chief, Klaus Bischoff noted this morning that the staff started with a blank sheet of paper and drew inspiration from a 50′s era Bug which they parked in the studio. The biggest visual change to the car reflects early Beetle influence. The roof is flattened out slightly and side windows retain more of the character of the early car. Gone is the Bauhaus/bubble look in place of a sleeker and sportier shape. VW’s current brand design language can be seen in the front and rear bumper which have slight angular facets. The exterior lighting has also been updated. The signature front circular headlight is a more complex form in the new model. The C-shaped tail lights look more conventional and rather like they were nicked off an Audi.
The other memorable element to the “New Beetle” was the quirky interior. It was a mix of industrial design beauty with touches of personality like the bud vase. It is easy to see that the Mini designers heavily studied that interior. The 2012 Beetle gets a heritage derived passenger compartment that is more harmonious with the exterior. With the new windshield angled back further, the dashboard doesn’t extend far forward like the second generation. This immediately makes the interior look more familiar and less like a spaceship. Wrapping the doors and dash are color matched panels relating to the exterior. This again has a 50′s inspired look especially with the silver trim. The modern touches come in with the cleanly designed controls and LED ‘mood lighting’ integrated into the interior.
While not a radical departure in terms of design, the 2012 Beetle is intended to be a global vehicle for VW. This primarily means that the car has to meet the needs of customers in Europe, America, and Asia without significant alterations. The last generation Beetle found most success in the American market with a design that represented the teen age years of the car. With the third generation, VW has obviously allowed the design to mature and the overall character feels more grown up.