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BILLUND, Denmark—Suddenly last summer, there they were in Billund. Two experts from the Volkswagen car manufacturer – seated at a conference table in Idea House.
In their hands they held a beetle. The Beetle. The one and only Beetle. Their own “Volkswagen Type I” – known all over the world under a host of local names: Beetle, Käfer, Boble, Coccinelle and many more. And now it was being carefully studied – in LEGO bricks.
Sitting by them – watching intently – was a LEGO designer. For Steen Sig Andersen, this was the culmination of months of development work.
This summer, two VW employees visited Billund. And next summer, the car (the small one) will hit the market, targeting the adult fans.
Today, a completed sample of the finally approved Beetle stands on Steen Sig Andersen’s desk. It’s ready to hit retailers’ shelves in the second half of 2008.
Steen Sig Andersen: “Early in the design phase I visited Volkswagen head office to weigh expectations and show them the first sketches. So when they wanted modifications during their Billund visit I made them on the spot.”
Now that Steen Sig Andersen and the Volkswagen contingent have solved the design problems, and Mette Merete Andersen of the Legal Department has ironed out the legal niceties, the LEGO Group is ready to test consumer reactions. Martin Lassen, Marketing Manager, is confident on that score. Because the people who’ll be buying the car are the same as those who helped develop it.
Martin Lassen: “It was actually the fans who decided we should do this particular car. Three fans visited us here in Billund and built various car suggestions with our designers. And we took the suggestions to a LEGO event in Cologne where members of the public voted on them. At the same time, via our network of AFOLs (adult fans) and LEGO ambassadors, we asked which type of vehicle people would like to see in LEGO form. So we’re pretty sure we’ve chosen the right product from the point of view of our adult fans. We know the Volkswagen Beetle was an alltime favourite in the USA. That bodes well for the product – plus the fact that the blue colour is attractive to consumers.”
It took Steen Sig Andersen about three weeks to build the LEGO Beetle. The biggest challenge was the engine – and, of course, the rounded lines of the real VW Beetle were not easy to replicate.
Steen Sig Andersen: “When you scale things down, it’s more difficult to achieve that rounded look when you’re working with squares and cubes. So a few square edges are inevitable.”
The edges were one of the things the Volkswagen factory wasn’t too happy about. The Wolfsburg engineers thought the LEGO model was too far from the car’s original appearance.
Martin Lassen: “Volkswagen representatives weren’t shown a 100% true copy, a model cast in a single piece. It took them a while to get used to the idea that the LEGO look had an appeal of its own.”
But Volkswagen head office no longer has any doubt. in the words of KlausJürgen Glaser of the Wolfsburg HQ: “I think both companies can profit from this project. It’s a good way of making contact with children. And it’s a splendid model.”
The VW Beetle will be in the shops next summer. The LEGO Group and Volkswagen have already agreed to bring the model along to several car exhibitions – and it will also be on view at LEGO events.
Martin Lassen: “At the same time we’re all in agreement that the product must have other exciting marketing opportunities. So we hope to see other joint activities as we get closer to the product launch.”
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