First Drive: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle volkswagen videos reviews first drives auto articles
2012 Volkswagen Beetle. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

Photo Gallery:
2012 Volkswagen New Beetle

Berlin, Germany – The sheer scale of the promotion is apparent from the moment one walks out of the terminal at the Berlin airport. Across the road is a four story banner announcing the arrival of the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle, “A Beetle for the 21st Century.”

On another corner near Potsdamer Platz is another monster banner, perhaps strategically placed for the visiting media from around the world that will come here throughout July to drive the latest edition of this automotive icon. But it is also viewable by all the citizens of Berlin who pass by on their way to and from work or by any of the hundreds of thousands of tourists who arrive each summer in this historically important city.

In the middle of Potsdamer Strasse is a display of classic Beetles, a New Beetle and this 2012 Beetle which is new, but not New. A 1960 Beetle decked out like Disney’s Herbie, examples from 1970 and 2000 as well as two of these 2012 models attract attention from passersby 24 hours a day.

First Drive: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle volkswagen videos reviews first drives auto articles
2012 Volkswagen Beetle. Click image to enlarge

It is apparent that this launch is not like any other new car launch. This is no ordinary push on the financial gas pedal to accelerate a vehicle into the public conscience. Nope, Volkswagen has floored the public relations accelerator to spur awareness of the completely, undeniably and quite incredibly new, but not New, Beetle wherever Volkswagens are sold.

The campaign began in April with three almost simultaneous press conferences at three of the world’s most significant auto shows that coincidentally, or strategically if you are conspiracy theory minded, occurred on the same day – Berlin, Shanghai and New York – smack in the middle of three of Volkswagen’s most important markets: Germany with 301,700 Volkswagens sold through the first six months of this year, North America with its 237,700 (up 21.8 per cent from the first six months of 2010) and China with its incredible six-month sales of 852,000.

First Drive: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle volkswagen videos reviews first drives auto articles
2012 Volkswagen Beetle. Click image to enlarge

You folks in Toronto can look for your own version of high-rise, get-the-message advertising when Volkswagen Canada launches its promotional efforts in Dundas Square, as well as on those super large billboards along the Gardiner and other highways; Montreal and Vancouver too. Another focus of the awareness campaign will be a massive spend online with particular attention on social media channels. Forget about that dying media called TV. To get in on this campaign you will need to get out or get online.

Following this advertising and public relations blitz is every bit as interesting and exciting as driving the all new (but please don’t call it New) 2012 Beetle, which really begs the question, Why? Certainly the first generation, Type 1 Beetle was both a cultural and engineering phenomenon, not to mention one of the biggest sellers of the last century, with 21.5 million first gen Beetles sold across the planet. Compared to that, the one million and a bit New Beetles sold between 1998 and 2010, is a mere shadow, a sales result that could have been characterized as nothing more than a failure. After 11 years of production and a relative pittance sold, one could have expected bye-bye New Beetle – say so long to yet another retro mobile.

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