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Beastie Boys-Inspired Fad Boosts VW Emblem Thefts

(Origionally published by: Detroit Free Press)
by: Maragaret Trimer

The Beastie Boys have a lot of people rapping, and apparently some ripping off: Detroit area Volkswagen dealers report a sharp increase in the disappearance of four-inch hood and grille emblems.

Automotive jewelry has been popularized by Mike D, a member of the Beastie Boys rap group, who has appeared on television with a chrome Volkswagen emblem attached to a chain-link necklace.

''Ah, the Beastie Boys are in town. For a while there we had a real run on those things,'' said Chuck Wysocki, parts manager at Seaway Motors in Dearborn, referring to Volkswagen emblems.

The group was scheduled to appear at Pine Knob Wednesday night. Wysocki said the dealership normally sells two emblems a month to people who have lost them in accidents. In the last 30 days, he estimated, eight have been sold to customers who complained that theirs had been stolen.

Other dealerships polled Wednesday reported an increase in sales of the -to- replacement emblems.

''The people who are buying them come in and complain that somebody took theirs,'' said Dave Gazala, parts salesman at Tom Sullivan Volkswagen in Southfield.

In the last month, one customer had four grille emblems stolen, Gazala said. The dealership has sold about 19 VW emblems a month since May, he said, a significant increase from previous months.

Sales manager Dick Rowland of Honda-Melton Motors in Southgate said about six emblems have been taken from Volkswagens at the dealership in the last three months.

''We're not pleased,'' he said. ''But it's a fad, and the more people write about it, the more they steal them.''

Pete Ostrowski, parts manager at the dealership, said ''a few honest kids come in and buy the things instead of steal them.''

In Britain, the VW necklace fad has become so popular that Volkswagen has felt obliged to offer free replacements to customers and replicas to rap fans. Volkswagen has given away thousands of emblems and smaller replicas, a spokeswoman said.