At the 1994 North American International Auto Show, Volkswagen unveiled the J Mays-penned “Concept 1”, a concept car with futuristic styling deliberately reminiscent of the original Beetle’s rounded shape. Strong public reaction convinced the company to move the car into production, and in 1998, 20 years after the last original Beetle was sold in the United States, Volkswagen launched the New Beetle, designed by Mays and Freeman Thomas at the company’s California design studio.
New Beetles are manufactured at VW’s Puebla, Mexico assembly plant where the last line of factory-built air-cooled Beetles were removed from production.
The New Beetle, with its (water-cooled) engine at the front of the car driving the front wheels, is related to the original only in name, general shape and some styling cues.
In an attempt to stem a trade in grey market imports into the UK, in 1998 VW made available a limited number of New Beetles to those who had signed up to a web campaign a few years earlier. These, officially the first New Beetles in the UK, were available in full UK spec (albeit only in left-hand drive), and started to arrive in the UK in April 1999. Right-hand drive versions arrived at the beginning of 2000, and have sold fairly well.