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Saturday, 16 May, 1998, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
Total recall
The new Beetle
The Beetle's retrospective lines have made it hugely popular in the US
Volkswagen has suffered an embarrassing problem in America, where every single one of the new VW Beetle is being recalled because of a safety problem.

The car has been an instant hit with the public, with 8,500 snapped up in the US, and another 1,500 selling rapidly in Canada.

The car has passed crash tests with flying colours, but VW has now discovered that certain wires could be damaged from rubbing against the battery tray near the engine.

Beetle passing head on crash test
The Beetle has passed crash tests with flying colours
This could cause a wiring fire in the engine compartment, or make the car's air conditioning compressor or fuel pump fail. If the fuel pump malfunctions, the vehicle will stall without warning.

VW said it had received no reports of accidents or injuries related to the wiring problem, and no fuel pump failures or stalled vehicle incidents, but it has discovered three air conditioner compressors failing.

The car has been a huge hit, and there have been numerous reports of people buying them up and selling them on for thousands of dollars more than their list price - about $18,000 (11,500) fully equipped.

The Beetle has also received the ultimate accolade from parking valets at trendy Los Angeles restaurants. They are putting the new Beetles on display in prime kerbside spaces normally occupied by Porsches and Rolls-Royces.

The new Beetle
The recall is embarrassing for VW
Despite the recall, the new Beetle has received glowing reviews from safety experts and car magazines.

The US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently gave the car its highest rating in low-speed and high-speed crash tests, saying its nostalgic lines mask a tough bumper and structural system.

Industry analysts believe VW is unlikely to suffer any long-term problems, mainly because the recall is being handled quickly.

"It's a non-event in our mind," said Wesley Brown, an analyst with The Nextrend consulting group in Thousand Oaks, California.

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