TIMES SQUARE — As I was broiling under a relentless sun (defiantly wearing a Honda cap, but that’s another story) waiting for singer Katy Perry, I kept trying to convince myself she was going to be worth it. That career-making piece of pop about kissing a girl (her first song, as it turned out) is pretty catchy, after all. But it wasn’t until Perry’s latest hit, “California Girls,” that she climbed up on top of the Volkswagen Jetta (fortunately taking her shoes off first).
The Volkswagen Jetta? Oh yeah, that’s why we were all there. VW just introduced a new 2011 model that will sell for only $16,000, and that’s with air, CD, power locks and keyless entry. U.S. CEO Stefan Jacoby got up with the car’s designer, Klaus Bischoff, and they said a few words, but who cared — it was Katy, Katy, Katy. Later she met the press in a huge crush, while Jacoby was looking for reporters who weren’t infatuated with her skintight green vinyl dress.
Journalism is like sausage-making — you really don’t want to see it being made. There were auto reporters from all over the world, and only the barest scrap of news (actual facts would came later at a press conference). Did Edward R. Murrow do it this way?
OK, here’s the meat of the matter, though you may find Mario Batali’s meatball recipe more enlightening: VW is tired of Honda (Civic) and Toyota (Corolla) grabbing the bulk of small car sales, so it has created an entry-level Jetta version that is only slightly more expensive than those market leaders. And, of course, VW has to identify the car with “fun” and the young consumers who buy just about everything (including all the music).
Does the phrase “fun car” bring the buttoned-down VW Jetta to mind? No, that would be the New Beetle, wouldn’t it? VW is redesigning that one, too, and you can guarantee that when it appears next year it will set a new benchmark for iconic style. It had better, because VW wants to be the biggest automaker in the world.
Back at the mini-Woodstock, I noticed we were standing on real grass. Jacoby called it “an urban oasis.” I can’t even begin to contemplate the logistics of bringing sod into Times Square, but it wasn’t why the event was an hour late in starting. That was because … I actually don’t know why it was: Katy Perry petulance, perhaps? She seemed bright enough when she finally did appear, introduced by an obnoxious DJ from “Z100” whose mike failed. She opened with a sober analysis, complete with PowerPoint, describing all the Jetta’s features. Naw, she didn’t. She’s Katy Perry, isn’t she? And she “looooves” New York, and Volkswagen, too.