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New Beetle Named Car of the Year

January 4, 1999

DETROIT (AP) _ Volkswagen’s New Beetle and the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee were named the 1999 North American car and truck of the year Sunday by a panel of automotive journalists.

The selection of the popular New Beetle came as no surprise, given its unusual design and the long waiting lists of those who were willing to buy the car even before it arrived in showrooms last year. The modern interpretation of the original Beetle has been an automotive phenomenon.

But Volkswagen AG Chairman Ferdinand Piech said he was caught off guard. He lost a $20 bet with Volkswagen board member Klaus Kocks that the Bug wouldn’t win. Piech said he came to that conclusion when VW officials had not heard from the panel before Monday’s awards ceremony.

``I paid and I’m happy I could pay,″ Piech said. ``I’m happy to lose it.″

The Beetle recently went on sale in Europe and eventually will be sold in Asia as well. Piech said he has been surprised at its popularity in Europe.

``We didn’t expect that it would have the same breakthrough in Europe,″ he said. ``We thought Europe was more for the Golf, America was more the Beetle. But now, Beetle sells in both places very well.″

Piech said he believes one reason the car has done so well in the United States is that it was designed here.

The Grand Cherokee was redesigned for 1999 and has followed in the successful footsteps of the original. The midsize sport utility vehicle was introduced in 1992 and has been one of DaimlerChrylser AG’s most successful and profitable vehicles.

The annual awards are presented at the North American International Auto Show.

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