J Mays

Volkswagen Beetle

Carroll Gantz
Mays, J
1998 VW.jpg

The new Beetle ‘Concept 1’ was unveiled in 1994 by Volkswagen at the North American International Auto Show. It was designed by J Mays, global vice president of design for Ford since 1997, but who in 1990 had joined in the opening of a new design studio in California for Volkswagen-Audi, his employer since 1980. It was the Design Center California of Volkswagen of America in Simi, California, and headed by Charles Ellwood which was linked to the Volkswagen Design Center in Wolfsburg, Germany. Mays’ research for a new American-targeted design revealed a strong customer emotion for the original Beetle, sold in the U.S. from 1949 to 1980, by which time 100 million had been sold, six times that of the Model T. Mays and his team, including Mays Art Center classmate and VW colleague Freeman Thomas, developed the concept which was deliberately reminiscent of the original Beetle’s rounded shape. Public response was extremely positive, and the design reached production in 1998, about 20 years after the last original Beetle was sold in the U.S, and exactly 60 years after the first Beetle was produced in Germany in 1938. The Beetle design had easily become the most popular design concept in history, and appears to remain in our culture forever. The new Beetles were manufactured in Mexico, with water-cooled front-mounted engines (as opposed to the air-cooled rear engines of the originals), and cost $18,000 (about 10 times the cost of 1958 models), but were so high in demand that some sold for $25,000. In 1997, Mays joined Ford and Thomas joined Chrysler in 1999 and by 2002 headed DaimlerChrysler’s Pacifica Studios. In 2005 he joined Ford as director of

100 Years of Design includes excerpts from a book by Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, entitled, Design Chronicles: Significant Mass-produced Designs of the 20th Century, published August 2005 by Schiffer Publications, Ltd.
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