With the burgeoning Chinese car market seeing a large percentage of cars being snapped up by younger people, it's no surprise Volkswagen chose the 2013 Shanghai Auto Show as the location for the world première of its iBeetle – a marriage of Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle and Apple's equally iconic iPhone. The iBeetle will come in Coupe and Convertible models and features a centrally located docking port specially designed in collaboration with Apple that allows a docked or undocked iPhone to interface with the vehicle using the Beetle app.
The iPhone interface provides the driver with a wide variety of functions, including navigation and streaming of online radio and playlists through the car’s sound system. There's also an “Expert” mode that allows the driver to monitor monitor car performance, a “Trainer” mode for comparing driving times and fuel economy over different routes as well as sharing traffic tips with other drivers, and a “Milestones” mode that rewards the driver for completing various tasks. And, of course, it can also be used to make hands-free phone calls.
However, the main thrust of the iBeetle is in the area of social networking. The Beetle app’s “Reader” mode lists messages from social networks and reads iPhone messages out loud. “Postcard” allows the driver to send a digital postcard complete with map showing the IBeetle’s location, while “Photo” uses the iPhone camera to send images of the iBeetle’s interior over social networks.
Numerous car makers have developed smartphone apps for their cars and Volkswagen's approach may dodge the problem of car infotainment and communications systems that have a notorious tendency to become obsolete over time.
The iBeetle comes in a choice of colors including “Candy White” and “Deep Black Pearl Effect,” while the interior boasts black sport seats in “Vienna” leather.
Volkswagen plans to launch the iBeetle and iBeetle Convertible at the start of 2014, though it will begin advanced sales this October.