Volkswagen has increased the mix of male buyers for the new 2012 VW Beetle by more than 48 percent over the old New Beetle, as men now account for some 43 percent of all U.S. Bug buyers; that’s up from a mark of 29 percent posted at the same time last year with the previous model. That’s according to the financial analysts at Bloomberg, who recently checked in with Volkswagen to see how well the company is doing in its quest to double U.S. sales by 2018. And it’s the sales story—not a sudden streak of misogyny—that’s driving the new focus on male buyers.
(A quick clarification: The “New Beetle” was the name of the model that was sold in the U.S. from 1998 through 2011. The vehicle introduced late last year is officially known once again as just the “Beetle.”)
The bottom line here is that, for Volkswagen to meet its sales goal, it has to attract all kinds of customers to all members of its lineup, something the previous-generation Beetle could never accomplish. The iconic Bug was never exactly the most macho vehicle on the planet, but the prior version started garnering a particularly “feminine” market position almost as soon as the first flower vase appeared on its dash. In fact, according to Bloomberg, which cited data from Edmunds, the New Beetle had the third-highest mix of female purchasers last year in the United States.
Now, some folks may recall that that car did feature advertising efforts tailored for the traditional male buyers, including one that showed the New Beetle tearing up a Pro Rally circuit. And there were turbocharged and sport-tuned variants available, as well as a limited-edition New Beetle RSi that extricated more than 220 hp from one of VW’s VR6 six-cylinder engines. But nothing was ever able to change customer perceptions of the vehicle as a source of flower power instead of horsepower.
In response, Volkswagen has—with apparent early success—relied much more heavily on male-oriented marketing for the 2012 Beetle, focusing on its available turbo model and partnering with the Xbox video system to attract gamers, who are more often men. Male buyers also are more interested in diesel technology than are women, and that will play an important role when VW’s clean-diesel technology makes it way to the Beetle later this year, bringing with it an EPA mark of 40 mpg highway.
Another notable explanation for the current Beetle’s ability to appeal to more men is its appearance. Volkswagen designers specifically tailored the exterior of the car and explicitly labeled the design as “bolder, more dynamic, and more masculine.”
According to the design chief for the VW brand, Klaus Bischoff: “The Beetle is now characterized by a clean, self-confident and dominant sportiness. The car not only has a lower profile; it is also substantially wider, the front hood is longer, the front windshield is shifted further back and has a much steeper incline. All of this creates a new dynamism.”
The real point, however, isn’t the design itself as much as it is the effectiveness of the design, something that is becoming a hallmark of the new Volkswagen. Remember, both the current Volkswagen Jetta and Volkswagen Passat were redesigned to better match the requirements of U.S. drivers, and the success of that effort is patently obvious in the cars’ sales figures. The former has now edged its way into the compact mainstream, besting the Nissan Sentra in February sales and finishing within 1,000 units of the Hyundai Elantra, while the latter just had its best month since the fresh model launched, reaping more than 8,100 sales—meaning VW notched more deliveries for the new Passat in that one month of February than it did of the old model in all of 2011.
Which means that once the metamorphosis of the current Beetle is complete—and all versions, including the convertible, are available to customers—there’s every reason to believe a better mix of female and male customers, with many more of both, will be the result.