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VW seeks to rekindle a bit of Beetlemania with an updated bug

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Get out the Raid. Close the screen door. Dust off those bad jokes about rubber bands and windup keys. A new and improved Volkswagen Beetle is coming to America.

Volkswagen AG says it will produce an updated version of the weird-looking, noisy and phenomenally popular economy car within the next five years, after the positive reaction to two experimental Beetle reincarnations -- a hardtop and convertible -- displayed earlier this year at U.S. auto shows.

RTC The new model will look something like them, VW said this week.

How well it sells, says New Jersey-based auto industry consultant Mike Luckey, will depend on price, which VW says will be "competitive," and on quality.

"There are probably enough old-Beetle buffs to support a niche product for a couple of years," he says. "But if you're looking for anything like even 50,000 a year, it'll have to be priced attractively and be well-regarded by consumers."

The car might be built in Mexico, replacing a version of the Beetle still produced and sold there and in Brazil. VW hasn't decided yet what to name it, but it probably won't be "Beetle," says U.S. spokesman Tony Fouladpour.

That never was its predecessors' real name, anyway -- just a nickname that stuck. They were simply the "Volkswagen Sedan."

The new car will be quite different mechanically from earlier Beetles, the first of which debuted in the United States in 1949 and the last of which was sold in 1979. It will have its engine, probably a four-cylinder, in front, not in the rear, and be front-wheel drive, not rear-wheel drive. It'll also have dual air bags and anti-lock brakes.

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