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New VW Beetle Premieres in Europe

November 3, 1998

WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) _ Appealing to nostalgia for the bug-topped Beetle adored by millions, Volkswagen on Monday introduced a svelter, quieter version of the 1960s classic to the European market.

Already a huge success in the United States, Volkswagen hopes the retro-looking New Beetle with a smile-shaped hood will help the company shed its image of building reliable but staid cars.

The reworked Beetle features a Golf engine under its curved hood, eliminating the familiar rattle. An electronic stabilization system and airbags _ and a standard flower holder on the dashboard, only an option on the original _ also are new.

Volkswagen has received about 200,000 requests for the car from European customers, spokesman Fred Baerbock said. About half of those were in Germany.

Cars normally are bought in Germany after an order is placed with the dealer. First deliveries are expected Nov. 27, although about 1,000 imported by aficionados are already on the streets.

The company plans to manufacture 120,000 New Beetles this year and 160,000 in 1999, said Tony Fouladpour, a Volkswagen spokesman in Detroit.

The new Beetle went on sale in the United States in March. Volkswagen says it sold over 40,000 cars from mid-March to the end of September in North America, including Canada and Mexico, where it is produced.

Volkswagen hopes the car will appeal to adults who motored around in it in the 1960s or ’70′s, said Baerbock.

``There is an emotional impact to the New Beetle, and that emotional reaction is strengthened by (interest in) the car’s modern motor. It’s a fun car _ it’s got zest for life,″ Baerbock said.

The car’s world premiere was at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, and its success has also boosted sales for Volkswagen’s other models, Baerbock said.

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