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Bidding Battles for Beetles

Volkswagen's New Beetle may provide the most value for the economy-car dollar - but not yet.

Too many buyers are lining up to pay the $15,700 sticker price. That means the 50,000 New Beetle's that VW plans to sell in the US this year will go to customers willing to pay more - up to twice the base price. At that, many forgo the VW warranty by buying them off used-car lots.

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One Michigan man had two offers to buy his New Beetle - for $23,000 and $27,000 - within days of bringing it home.

Some dealers stick close to VW's suggested price and have a six-month waiting list. Others sell them to the highest bidder.

That's where scalpers come in. Some got their names on dealers' lists early, says Paul Maraniani, sales manager at Brookline VW in Massachusetts. When their cars came in, they resold them, without warranty and without mercy, to customers who had to have the first new bug on the block. Others made offers to people like the Beetle owner in Michigan.

One secondhand dealer, asked how he was getting the cars, responded: "Cheat, beg, borrow, steal." He would not elaborate.

Prices should fall as VW ramps up supply next year.

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