NEW YORK (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> showed off a redesigned Beetle small car on Monday at auto shows in Shanghai, Berlin and New York.
The new version is the third generation of the "Beetle" originally introduced in 1938. The 2012 Beetle is 6 inches longer than its predecessor, "The New Beetle," introduced in 1998, at 168 inches, and it is 3.3 inches wider at 71.2 inches.
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Some 21.5 million of the original iconic smaller Beetle, widely known in the U.S. as "The Bug," were sold around the world after it was first introduced in Germany before World War II.
At the time it was known simply as "Volkswagen," which meant, "the people's car." Now, the name of the company that was once a car model is now the third-largest automaker in the world.
The newest Beetle will launch in the U.S. market in September and October, in the European market in October and November, and in the Asian market in February 2012.
It has a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower.
Volkswagen has gained on global sales leaders Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> and General Motors Co <GM.N> in the past several years, and it sold more than 7 million vehicles last year for the first time.
However, while its sales are improving in the United States, it still is a relatively small player, with a market share near 3 percent, including its luxury brand Audi.
Volkswagen said the first car for commercial sale rolled off the assembly line on Monday at its new Chattanooga, Tennessee, auto plant. The plant makes the 2012 Passat sedan, which debuts in the U.S. market later this year.
Passat production at the Tennessee plant is scheduled to rise to 150,000 annually by 2012.
Volkswagen, back when the Beetle was a top imported model sold in the United States, had a production plant in Pennsylvania. But by 1988, sales had slowed and the plant was shut down.
Volkswagen has aggressive sales goals for the U.S. market, where by 2018 it wants to sell 1 million vehicles. Of that, 800,000 would be of the Volkswagen brand and 200,000 of the Audi brand.
In 2010, Volkswagen increased U.S. sales of its main Volkswagen brand by 20 percent to 257,000 vehicles. Its Audi brand increased sales last year by 23 percent to 102,000 vehicles.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall. Edited by Peter Bohan and Bernard Orr)