It's high time for a new VW Beetle

January 20, 2007|by DONALD CURRIER

It is hard to find anything good to say about Adolf Hitler, but one idea he had lived on long after his death. It became a cultural phenomenon all over the world. I'm talking about the famous Volkswagen "Beetle."

In 1933, Hitler decided that the German people ought to have a "people's car" that all German families could afford. He called in Ferdinand Porsche and told him what he wanted. It was to carry two adults in the front and have room for three children in the back seat. It was to be sturdy, reliable, easily maintained and low cost so that the average German family could afford one. He then turned over the design and development issues to Porsche to mass produce such a vehicle.

Porsche's chief designer, a man named Komenda, came up with the original concept. He borrowed a number of features from some vehicles they were building for the German Army. The original Type 1 Volkswagen was produced in 1938. Only a few hundred were built. It was Hitler's elite and not the ordinary people who got them.


Then came the war in 1939 and all civilian production was suspended. The plant was very badly damaged by American bombing. In 1945, the new German government, desperate for something to employ its people and generate revenue, resurrected the plant and began production of the "people's car." It was an amazing success. Before the last Beetle was made in Mexico in 2003, almost 22 million were built or assembled in factories all over the world.

Since 2003, no one has come up with another "people's car." America and many other countries in the world need one. It should be based on the newest technology and be designed to meet the needs of the current way we live and operate. Here are my suggestions.

The "people's car" should be a hybrid gas and electric car with an additional external battery with recharging capability of at least 1000 recycles. It should carry four adults. It should have minimum fancy features (heater and/or air conditioning optional) but an FM/AM radio standard.

In its primary use as a commuter car, combining highway mode and city traffic, it should deliver not less than 50 mpg of whatever liquid fuel it will use. When used as a longer range means of transportation, it should have a top speed of 80 mph and fuel consumption of at least 40 mpg.

The car should be equipped with certain well-recognized safety features such as disc brakes, two air bags in the front seats and the best frame and body designs known to maximize passenger safety. Provisions to protect rescuers from the dangers of battery damage or of electrical shock must be demonstrated.

The car should be designed for easy maintenance and repair. Batteries should be easily checked and be replaceable as necessary.

In return for the superior mileage capabilities, the federal government will mandate the elimination on a national basis of most of the pollution control accessories on the "people's car."

Who will build this new "people's car?" Probably it will not be an American company. They are too risk-averse and too wedded to the big luxury high mark up "gas guzzlers." My guess is it will be the Chinese, who need a small high-mileage car even more than we do.

But I guarantee we'll buy them in big numbers!

Donald Currier is a Smithsburg-area resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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