If you aim to be the biggest, make big news, too

Diana T. Kurylko covers various U.S. import brands for Automotive News

Volkswagen launched the redesigned Beetle this week with a worldwide punch that says it's a brand to be reckoned with.

Automotive News | April 20, 2011 - 7:12 am EST

Volkswagen launched the redesigned Beetle this week with a worldwide punch that says it's a brand to be reckoned with.

Simultaneous introductions were held in Shanghai, Berlin and New York City -- and the showmanship wasn't your usual pull-the-wraps-off and beat-your-chest unveiling.

In New York City, the rollout started Monday morning with a staged press conference at a warehouse with rock and rap music and big screens showcasing VW's Super Bowl Beetle commercial.

That evening, VW took over a dance club and partnered with MTV, which broadcast a live concert via the Internet of the Black Eyed Peas, the hip-hop group that played during halftime at this year's Super Bowl in Texas.

VW later hosted an after-party in another New York nightclub with booze and a disc jockey spinning music. VW showed a video recap of the day's three launches on an enormous screen.

Why go so big with a car that won't be as big a seller in this market as the Jetta sedan or the new Passat sedan designed and built for the United States?

Journalists examine the newly redesigned Volkswagen Beetle during its launch prior to the start of the Shanghai auto show this week. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

VW is aiming for annual sales of about 150,000 for each of those cars. The United States was the biggest market for the current New Beetle and the Chinese market will bump up the redesigned car's annual worldwide sales.

Volkswagen Group of America CEO Jonathan Browning says VW did it because the Beetle is a global icon.

But there was another, less in-your-face message. "As a global entity, we are probably the most regionally and geographically balanced brand," Browning said.

VW sells cars in China and other Asian markets, Europe and North and South America.

"There are not many brands that can credibly launch across three continents," Browning says.

Translation: This is the automotive group that VW Group CEO Martin Winterkorn says will top Toyota Motor Corp. as the No. 1 carmaker in the world by 2018.

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