BERLIN (AP) — East Germany's smoke-belching, underpowered Trabant automobile has become a rarity on the country's highways, but that may soon change.
A company in the eastern state of Saxony said Friday it is developing a modern version of the popular communist-era Trabi, as the car is fondly called in Germany.
''We want to build a grown-up version of the famous Trabi,'' said Ronald Gerschewski, the director of the bodywork factory IndiKar. ''It will be simple, inexpensive and, of course, comply with contemporary security and environmental standards.''
The car — called newTrabi — will look very much like the original square-cut Trabant, Gerschewski said. The company plans to introduce a prototype at the International Auto Show in Frankfurt in 2009.
IndiKar is based in the eastern town of Wilkau-Hasslau, near Zwickau, where the original Trabant was produced by Sachsenring AG until shortly after German unification.
The bodywork factory is developing the car in cooperation with Herpa, a miniature model developing company based in Bavaria.
''The development will consider the wishes and expectations of the legendary car's many enthusiastic fans,'' Klaus Schindler, a Herpa manager and the initiator of the newTrabi, said in a statement published earlier this week. ''The newTrabi will be an eye-catcher — traditional and charming, as well as innovative, convenient and economical.''
While the original Trabant had a two-stroke engine, Gerschewski said, the engine of the newTrabi would be modern, fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly.
''We hope that the car will cost no more than 10,000 euros ($14,705), but of course that depends on how many cars will eventually be produced,'' he said. So far, IndiKar is still looking for an automobile company that is interested in producing the auto serially.
The Trabant gained overnight fame in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989, and East Germans drove their sputtering cars across the border where they were joyously received by West Berliners.
In recent years, the Trabant has become yet another symbol for a broader phenomenon known as Ostalgie, or sentimental fascination with life in the former East Germany.