Volkswagen revs up a new sales engine: Your iPhone

The road to your next car runs right through the nearest iPhone--at least Volkswagen is banking that it does.

On Wednesday Volkswagen launched its new 2010 GTI hatchback not via a television or radio commercial or an auto show floor presentation, but in Apple's App Store, thus becoming the first car company to announce a new car exclusively through a mobile device, according to the company.

Parking itself in the App Store today is Real Racing GTI, a racing game designed by Firemint which, not surprisingly, features the 2010 GTI. The game, which makes good use of the accelerometer built into the iPhone and iPod Touch, includes a showroom where users can explore the specifications of the new hatchback and custom design a virtual model.

"We're going to essentially take our message directly to the customer," said Tim Ellis, vice president of marketing for Volkswagen of America, Inc. Wednesday night at a New York press event directly across the street from the site where Microsoft unveiled Windows 7 on Thursday.

Volkswagen's decision to announce the car exclusively via the App Store is a tip of the cap to popularity of the online venue, where thousands of eyes peruse the offerings at any given moment. More than two billion apps have been downloaded from the App Store since it opened.

Game players can enter a sweepstakes for one of six limited edition Volkswagen GTI MkVI hatchbacks being given away over six weeks. The game also makes good use of social networking, allowing users to capture their races and upload the video to YouTube and to send messages to other players via Twitter.

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Robert S. Anthony

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