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Volkswagen Considers Exporting Its Popular `Bug' Back Home to Germany

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 9, 1993



BONN

VOLKSWAGEN is considering bringing the VW bug back home. Some 21 million of the little rounded cars have rolled off assembly lines, a world record in the auto industry.

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When Volkswagen decided to expand production of the beetle from Mexico to Brazil next year, it thought it might use the new capacity to export the car back to its birthplace - Germany.

Though the bug has not been produced here for 15 years, Germans are still in love with it. It is not unusual for an owner of a Kafer (beetle) to return to his parked car and find a prospective buyer waiting to make an offer.

Volkswagen's marketers argue that a beetle renaissance would give the company a much-needed image boost. Last year, profits plunged 87 percent. But there is also "serious opposition" to the idea at Volkswagen's Wolfsburg headquarters, says spokesman Dietmar Fritsche.

Mr. Fritsche traveled to Mexico last year to celebrate the 21-millionth bug. "I climbed in myself - and I was disappointed. It simply isn't up to the standards of today's cars," he says. Were Volkswagen to import the car, the company would have to apply for a license to sell it, ensuring it met German environmental and safety requirements.

Besides, Fritsche argues, other carmakers are coming up with cute, small, energy-efficient, and low-priced cars.

At its annual shareholders' meeting June 3, Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech announced that VW planned to build a factory to make a new "people's car" that would be "the most affordable model in the world." Such a car would be stiff competition for the under-powered beetle.

Fritsche says VW will decide by the end of the year whether to import the beetle.