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Beetles: Click on Your Color

May 03, 2000

Aiming to capture a chunk of the wired generation's attention span--not to mention its copious cash flow--Volkswagen of America Inc. says it will sell two specially painted versions of its popular New Beetle exclusively to online buyers this year.

The company will offer 4,000 of the limited-edition subcompacts--half the production run painted in a "mystic light blue" called Vapor Blue, and half in "sporty, cutting-edge" Reflex Yellow--beginning Thursday to customers who shop for and order them through its Web site, http://www.vw.com.

"Except for picking up the car, the customer could conceivably complete the car purchase without moving from his or her computer screen," the Michigan-based importer, a unit of Volkswagen of Germany, said in a promotion likely to send shivers down the spines of fitness trainers everywhere.

Consumers interested in the limited-edition Beetles can use VW's site to choose options, determine the availability of the model they have chosen, select a dealer, pursue financing and purchase terms and arrange delivery.

"We want to make some headway into the online selling process," VW spokesman Tony Fouladpour said of the company's first foray into Internet sales. "We want to be a leader and innovator in this area."

Like other auto makers, VW is competing with independent companies such as Autobytel.com for the growing number of online auto sales. One big Internet commerce research group says it expects more than 500,000 cars and trucks to be sold via the Web in 2003, up from just 15,000 in 1999.

VW says about 60% of its U.S. customers already use the Internet regularly to gather information and obtain products and services.

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