VW: 'More masculine' Beetle will appeal to guysMon, 18 Jul 2011 00:00:00 -0700
Volkswagen expects many more men will buy the 2012 Beetle when U.S. sales of the redesigned version begin in September. And it wants younger customers, too.
Rainer Michel, Volkswagen of America's vice president of product marketing and strategy, says a "more masculine" appearance, including a higher beltline, and 20 more horsepower for the Beetle's base model should do the trick.
For the outgoing New Beetle, more than 65 percent of U.S. buyers were women. But for the new version, that percentage will be closer to 50, Michel says. He predicts that the average age of Beetle buyers will fall from 58 to 36.
Michel also expects the styling to give the Beetle more appeal outside the United States. The previous generation, introduced in 1998, relied on the United States for 72 percent of sales. That should drop to 50 percent for the new version, he says.
"The new style tested well in North America as well as in Europe, and China is a growing market," Michel says.
VW executives would not disclose sales targets but said the Beetle won't reach its 1999 peak of 83,434 cars in the United States.
"There are now many more competitors in the market, but we'll sell many more than in the last few years," said Andres Valbuena, VWoA's manager of Beetle product marketing and strategy.
He cited the Mini, Scion tC, Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro as competitors.
Sales of the outgoing New Beetle fell to 16,537 cars last year.
Michel said VW hopes to drive showroom traffic with the new version. "It is an icon, and we brought it back to the iconic style."
VW builds the Beetle in Puebla, Mexico. The engines, platform and underpinnings are taken from the Jetta sedan, which is made in Puebla. The outgoing New Beetle is based on the Golf hatchback that went out of production in 2005.
Initially, the Beetle will be available in the United States with a 170-hp, 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine, and a 200-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Pricing starts at $19,765 for the base model and $24,165 for the turbo. The prices include shipping.
A turbodiesel version goes on sale next spring, and a convertible in early summer. Prices for those versions haven't been released.
By Diana T. Kurylko- Automotive News