Volkswagen to Unveil 2014 iBeetle

The 2014 iBeetle, scheduled to be unveiled at this weekend’s Shanghai auto show, was designed by Volkswagen in collaboration with Apple to provide drivers with a new level of connectivity between car and smartphone. The iBeetle is designed to allow drivers to “listen to music, navigate, make hands-free calls and even monitor the car’s engine functions.” A custom “Beetle app has options that include use of Spotify, a program that reads social media, and creates digital postcards based on the car’s location. The car itself will even come in complementary iPhone color schemes!

Designing a car around a specific phone brand seems to mark a new step in the marriage between the auto industry and technology. Apple seems to be an especially appropriate partner for such a venture, given their significant market share and automotive-like business model. Much like car companies, Apple releases a new model of several of its products (most notably the iPhone) each year. As accusations and even lawsuits of planned obsolescence continue to mount against Apple, it seems they continue to hold back some of the technology that could be incorporated into a current year’s model to increase incentive to buy next year’s model. This new level of smartphone integration could also mark a new market strategy for auto producers. The iBeetle appeals to buyer’s brand loyalty to Apple, and is another form of connectivity to the company’s software in addition to Macs, iPads, iPods, and iPhones. With the company continuing to upgrade its software yearly, the iBeetle could easily become obsolete in another year or two, and require the purchase of a new iBeetle that is compatible with the new technology. Some of these car owners may upgrade their car each year to match the new technologies, just like many buy the new iPhone each year.

 

The upgrades between a specific car model year-to-year are often relatively minor, while technology seems to be growing at a much faster rate. Using technology as a car’s main selling point is a  strategy that can either reap huge rewards for car producers by following a business model similar to Apple’s or will backfire and cause cars to be outdated technologically as soon as they are released as consumers choose to leave them sitting on dealer’s lots.

 

Sources:

http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/22/the-2014-ibeetle-is-like-an-iphone-on-wheels/

http://appadvice.com/appnn/2013/02/apple-getting-sued-for-planned-obsolescence-of-ipad-3

3 comments to Volkswagen to Unveil 2014 iBeetle

  • First, do you want to be on the same road as someone in an iBeetle? Second, is it really wise to tie yourself to a phone brand that, while currently all the rage, might see its sheen fade by the time the vehicle is actually launched?

    I will talk about a counterexample with Chevrolet (GM) and Continental (a large supplier with its HQ in Germany), which seeks to remove any need for telematics branding of this sort by relying upon the cell phone and not the car except where physics deems necessary (e.g., put the GPS antenna in the car, and optimize the microphone / voice recognition system for the vehicle).

  • cookg15

    I agree and am very much opposed to this new “fad” car. I think it will sell fairly well in the very short run, but will not last the 3-4 year cycle most cars require. You also make another very good point: the iBeetle is an accident waiting to happen. With so many features to interact and play with in the car, it will be incredibly easy for drivers to lose their focus and become a danger to themselves and the other cars around them. Overall, I think there are too many risks for this car to succeed. Perhaps the plan was to produce it cheaply and try to profit during a brief sales window, with no plans to sustain the model in the long term.

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