Back in 1998, when Volkswagen
reintroduced its iconic Beetle
, sorority girls and hip grandmas alike were clamoring to get behind the wheel and decorate the dashboard bud vase with their favorite bloom. But the cutest car on the road didn't lure in many male buyers -- until now.
This year's Beetle was redesigned to be sporty and masculine rather than cute and whimsical. Gone is the bud vase and the bubble-shaped top. Instead, the car features an elongated hood, bigger tires and square bumpers that hark back to the original Beetle design. The result is a more aerodynamic, aggressive-looking stance. The new Beetle also has a higher-end sound system and a turbocharged model, and VW says it's planning to offer a diesel version, noting that 70 percent of its current diesel vehicles are purchased by men. A video-game marketing tie-in with Xbox, most of whose players are male, rounded out the carmaker's efforts to attract men.
The macho makeover is working out for VW so far, according to Bloomberg
: Since the new Beetle became available in September, the car has seen a 14 percent jump in male buyers, and in December, men were responsible for a full 50 percent of sales.
The strategy is part of the company's drive to more than double its U.S. sales from 444,200 last year to 1 million in 2018. Considering the Beetle is the type of model that lures customers into dealerships who often go on to buy other models, the redesign serves a broader purpose. "One of the goals, obviously, was to potentially attract a more balanced buyer group," Tim Mahoney, chief product and marketing officer for VW in the U.S., told Bloomberg. "We're seeing that happen."
But will female drivers be turned off by the beefed-up Beetle? Not necessarily, one industry expert says. "Girls don't mind driving masculine cars," Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds.com
told Bloomberg. And to be sure, even with the redesign, the Beetle still isn't one of the most macho rides on the road.
"They've done some improvements in the styling of the vehicle that made it slightly less feminine, but Beetle remains a more feminine design," said Jesse Toprak of Truecar.com
. "You don't want to alienate your core buying group."