The fun becomes serious
In October 1995 at the Tokyo Motor Show, Volkswagen surprisingly presented a significantly revised version of the Concept 1, this time in plain black. Today we know that their design was already largely identical to that of the later New Beetle. For example, it is a whopping 24 centimetres longer than the 1994 studies, which were based on a Polo format with an outer length of only 3.8 metres. Now, however, the larger fourth-generation Golf platform was under the black body, which was already undergoing intensive testing in autumn 1995. While Concept 1 in its original form was a bit of a “caricature of the Beetle” for Volkswagen chief designer Hartmut Warkuß, the revised version from Tokyo seemed even more successful to him: “The Concept 1 has matured more into a car as a result. It has lost some of that toy-like character and has grown into a more realistic car.“ Realistically, the assessment of the then Board of Management for Research and Development, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Seiffert was: “We will probably celebrate three Christmases before the Concept 1 is in showroom windows.“ The enthusiasm was still unbroken – at the trade fair in Tokyo, 21,000 customers(!) supposedly wanted to sign a pre-contract for the new Beetle.
We didn’t have to wait long for the next stage of evolution , because in January 1996 the North American International Auto Show took place again in Detroit. And, once again, a Volkswagen prototype was in the spotlight: it was called the New Beetle, which is when the name of the later series model was also revealed for the first time. A format-filling glass sunroof in the style of the Porsche 993 Targa created new speculation as to whether the New Age Beetle would actually be available as a convertible. With its cybergreen pearl effect paint and light grey-yellow interior, it was much more colourful than the black Concept 1 from Tokyo. Four airbags, all-wheel drive and the then brand new “Super-TDI” with 110 hp give a taste of the technology in the series version. In the spring of 1996, the prototype was also on display at the Geneva Motor Show, where Volkswagen presented another gag: the homepage www.beetle.de went online. Here, interested parties from all over the world were able to view the new Beetle online, design “their” Beetle virtually, contribute ideas and leave their address to find out more about the development of the vehicle. In 1996 this was quite innovative and no less than a world first – never before had a car manufacturer used the Internet to seek opinions, gather ideas and provide information about a product still in development. It did so quite successfully, because in just under two years the website for the New Beetle recorded over 1.2 million hits.