Daily demonstrations at 11am, free with admission!

Volkswagen New Beetle- 2003


By 1993, Volkswagen’s North American sales had dropped to a mere 50,000 total units. Two VW designers, J Mays and Freeman Thomas, believed the key to future success was to resurrect the Beetle. At the 1994 Detroit Auto Show, the Concept 1 was unveiled to great public fanfare, with consumers already putting in orders for a car not even in production. Mays and Thomas were proved right; nostalgia is a powerful selling tool.

Built upon the Mk. 4 Golf’s platform and assembled in VW’s factory in Puebla, Mexico, the New Beetle debuted in 1998 to critical acclaim. Aside from its overall shape and a few nostalgic design traits (rounded fenders front and rear, round tail- and headlamps, rocker panels styled to resemble running boards, a single-gauge instrument cluster, and a dash-mounted flower vase), the New Beetle shared nothing with the model it revived. Unlike the air-cooled, rear-engine original, the New Beetle’s water-cooled engine sat up front, powering the front wheels instead of the rear. However, like the original, it remained an affordable car, and in 1999 — its first full year — American buyers bought nearly 83,500 New Beetles.

In 2003, the New Beetle Convertible joined the lineup, replacing the outgoing, Golf-based Cabrio. Over its 13-year production run, the New Beetle was available in the American market with the choice of a frugal 115-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder a lively 1.8-liter 150 hp turbocharged four-cylinder, or, until 2006, an economical 1.9-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel. A 2012 redesign offered a more masculine-looking Beetle, losing the “New” part of its name. Initial sales were strong, but those numbers declined throughout the 2010s as buyers shifted to crossovers and SUVs. This, plus VW’s plans towards fully electric vehicles, forced the company to cease the Beetle’s production (again) in July of 2019.

Manufacturer: Volkswagen AG
Country of Origin: Germany (manufactured in Mexico)
Drivetrain Configuration: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Engine: Water-cooled, turbocharged, 1.8 liter, transverse four-cylinder, 150 HP
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Top Speed: 126mph
Years of Production: 1998-2019 (All New Beetles/Beetles)
Production Numbers: 1.17 million
Original Cost: $16, 750 USD (starting MSRP)