VW Brand Design Chief Klaus Bischoff discusses the new Beetle

Volkswagen unveiled its new, 2012 Beetle (no longer called New Beetle) at an event in New York City just ahead of the New York auto show. We spoke with VW design boss Klaus Bischoff about the new car.

On this Beetle versus the outgoing model:
“We took seriously into consideration the current Beetle. It had an arc roof, and the arc roof was like a signature that made the car immediately identifiable on the road. [But] I always had the problem that the driver sat so far from the windshield, and that you had such a long dashboard.

“At that time when the New Beetle was introduced, cab-forward design was very present and was modern, and that was the design that was chosen. And of course it had its effect and was very positive. But to me it was a compromise because it made the car a bit weak in driving feeling because it was so much like an MPV.

“We wanted to change the character toward dynamism, create a more sporty feeling, to be much more performance oriented. To create this, it’s a given that you bring the windshield closer to the driver. And that was something that we took from the Type 1 Beetle, designed by Ferdinand Porsche. If you ever had the chance to drive in the first [-generation Beetle], you recognize that you’re [very close to] the windshield and you can see the hood, and this is something that gives a sporty feeling.”

Detail changes versus the last car:
“You see a lot more depth, more sculpture. The wheel arch is much more pronounced than before. In the old one you also don’t have the negative cut out around the window area. We [changed the shape of the taillights] to enhance the width of the rear; if you see the car from a distance, you will recognize the C-shaped light signature. This element [the raised ridge along the bottom of the door] is done for a functional reason. You have to avoid the stone chips from hitting the side, so this is like a deflector.”

On maintaining the Beetle heritage:
“The main sculpture remains — on the first one, on the second one, and now on the third generation. That original shape is giving it its character. If you fall into the trap of changing it just to change, then you lose your design capital, and you should never do this.”

Bischoff’s personal Beetle history:
“My first car was a Type 1, and I loved it. It was a ’52, owned by my mother, and then I got it from her. I drove it during my student days, until it fell apart. I didn’t have the resources to restore it, and that was a shame.”