1973, the year when BS started his long career of doing propaganda for Volkswagen, is known for two equally momentous occasions: Volkswagen prepared for the initial launch of the Golf. Also, formerly staid Volkswagen became a bit risque when marketing its iconic Bug, and promptly got into hot water. 40 years later, they are doing it again. Hopefully, people have more humor than 40 years ago. I doubt it.
At the Chicago Auto Show, staring to day in the windy city, Volkswagen launches a special version of its revived Beetle. Limited to 3,500 editions worldwide, and fitted with a 155 kW / 210 hp engine, the car it yellow/black bumblebee livery is called “Beetle GSR.”
GSR stands for “Gelbschwarzer Renner”, German for yellow/black racer. It was the name for a special model of the VW Käfer 1303 S, likewise yellow and black. That car, and our campaign, got Volkswagen in trouble. 1973 was the year of the first oil crisis. Despite the puny 50 hp engine of the 1303, the campaign was understood as an invitation to hoonery. Huge discussions wafted back and forth, Volkswagen was denounced even in German parliament. Political correctness is not a recent invention.
There was something else that wasn’t discussed. The 1303 S was known for its increased thirst at the pump. Internally, it was called “Dreizehn-Loch-drei” or “Thirteen-Hole-Three” for the hole that was allegedly in its tank. Days after I started my job as Volkswagen propagandist, and after I erroneously praised the fuel-sipping virtues of the 1303, I was told a joke under strict non-disclosure and triple-secret life-long embargo:
A man in a Volkswagen 1303 pulls up to a gas station.
Man says: “Please fill ‘er up!”
Attendant: “Please switch off the engine.”
Also worthy of note: When the “New Beetle” was launched in 1998, any mention of the old Beetle was strictly verboten. 14 years later, that taboo also has fallen.