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VW Looks to Score Again in 2012 Super Bowl

Charles Krome
by Charles Krome
January 3, 2012
2 min. Reading Time

Even though the NFL playoffs have yet to even begin, at least one of last year’s teams is guaranteed a spot in the 2012 Super Bowl: Team Volkswagen. After blitzing the airwaves in this year’s title game—running three commercials in the 2011 Super Bowl, including the highly acclaimed “mini Darth Vader” spot for the reinvented VW Passat—the automaker will debut an all-new ad for the 2012 Volkswagen VW Beetle during the 46th annual game.

The 60-second commercial is scheduled to premiere at the start of the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVI, which is itself slated for February 5, 2012, in Indianapolis.

Clearly, the automaker will be looking to repeat the success of its Passat spot, which was named the most effective commercial of Super Bowl XLV by Ace Metrix—a top industry source for measuring the effectiveness of advertising—as well as the No. 1 commercial of the year by AD WEEK. The VW effort also has earned more than 45 million views on YouTube, while becoming a pop culture touchstone.

According to a statement from Volkswagen: “The overwhelming attention from the commercial piqued interest in the 2012 Passat months before it hit the market. This ensured that the car entered the market with momentum, with more sales in its first two months than the last Passat model sold in all of 2010.”

And remember, that interest needed a lot of piquing. The previous-generation Passat had simply fallen off the ol’ radar screen of most buyers, especially with the VW CC essentially duplicating its role as Volkswagen’s near-lux German sport sedan, but with much improved styling. Thus, Volkswagen’s advertising had to do more than just showcase the 2012 Passat’s redesign, it had to reposition the car in a whole new segment, where it would compete against the other mainstream mid-size sedans. Needless to say, those efforts have gotten the job done, and the actual numbers here are striking. The all-new Passat first went on sale in September, when it was responsible for 3,176 deliveries, then pushed that mark up to 5,040 units in October and 6,018 last month; that compares to the previous model’s sales of 572 units, 464 units and 313 units during the same periods in 2010.

For what it’s worth, the Passat also grabbed the Motor Trend Car of the Year award a few weeks ago and was named to the short list of finalists for the North American Car of the Year honor.

That track record of success likely went a long way in convincing VW to focus on the completely redesigned Beetle for its upcoming Super Bowl ad. The Beetle faces some of the same kind of challenges as the Passat, since Volkswagen is trying to reposition the former in the marketplace, too. This new Beetle is more aggressive and sporting than the past one, and the automaker is, frankly, trying to change the car’s current reputation as a bit of a “chick car.” The Beetle Turbo, for example, packs Volkswagen’s award-winning 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, which can deliver 200 hp and 207 lb.-ft. of torque, and the base powerplant is an I5 with 170 hp and 177 lb.-ft. of torque, output that’s pretty good for the segment.

But getting any significant volume from the car won’t be an easy task, if only because the demand for mainstream coupes simply isn’t that high. Which helps explain why there aren’t that many of them. Excluding cars like the Ford Mustang, et al., there’s the Honda Accord and Honda Civic coupes, as well as the Kia Forte Koup and Nissan Altima coupe, but that’s pretty much it. The Hyundai Veloster is touted as a “three-door” coupe, but I’m not sure why—the car is a hatchback. It’s also the same sort of style-oriented halo car that the Beetle is, albeit in a slightly different niche, so its sales performance can be read as providing a rough template for Beetle expectations.

The Beetle is a more expensive car—though it still starts under $20,000—with a more sophisticated feel, and it certainly boasts higher levels of fahrvergnügen than the Americanized Passat or Jetta. So, while I’m not sure it will outsell the Veloster—with sales of 3,724 units its first full month on the market and 2,538 in its second—it wouldn’t be out of line to expect VW to move a couple thousand Beetles a month, which would be a few hundred more than the car has managed so far.

Will Volkswagen’s new Super Bowl advertising help things pick up? I guess we’ll have to tune into NBC on Super Sunday to find out.



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