Der people's car 

When News Hits dropped in at the North American International Auto Show for the press preview earlier this week, we heard much verbiage about Sept. 11, particularly from Volkswagen.

VW board management member Dr. Jens Neumann proclaimed to several hundred journalists that September’s attacks hit the automotive industry “economically and psychologically.”

“We see more and more consumers redefining their mobility needs,” said Neumann. “They are certainly redefining what status means to them. It’s not about being rich, it’s about being rich in spirit. It’s not quantity, it’s quality. It’s not frivolous luxury, it’s substance.”

The topper was when Jens asserted that this “reorientation of values” is what VW “has always stood for.” (And here we always thought the concept for the original Beetle sprang from the mind of that great humanitarian, Adolf Hitler.)

“You know that Volkswagen connects people of all ages, nationalities and religions because we stand for values that are downright human, emotional and real,” said Neumann. “We build cars that transcend classes and unite personalities.”

News Hits nearly laughed out loud and could barely keep from shouting, “It’s a car, Neumann, a car, not a movement.”

But perhaps News Hits is being too hard on Volkswagen. After all, the numbers seem to confirm Herr Neumann’s shrewd observation about terrorism’s affects on the auto industry and consumers. Not since 1973 has VW sold as many cars in this country as it did this past year, he said.

So there you have it: Sept. 11 changed Americans so profoundly that we felt compelled to rush out and buy a German car.

Ann Mullen contributed to this week’s News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at or

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