As of yesterday, the Beetle’s back. Not that it ever really went away.
Volkswagen’s original vehicle was the yet-to-be-nicknamed Beetle, designed by Ferdinand Porsche and produced in 1938. The second-generation version, rolled out in 1998, saw the “people’s car” become “your girlfriend’s car” (in a Lilith Fair-y way) and proved a massive success in terms of unit sales and brand identity. Too bad it inadvertently alienated, well, an entire demographic. Men simply would not drive the thing. And not just “real” men — all men.
Hence the crucial importance of Monday’s international reveal of the third-generation Beetle: Make no mistake, both the official corporate party line and the marketing platform promise that this one’s for the boys.
But will the boys buy the bug?
I won’t deny that Volkswagen’s made some very smart, very calculated changes. The “21st Century Beetle” — the vehicle’s official name, just as the original model was actually called “Volkswagen Type 1” — has been completely redesigned and, in shape alone, represents an intentionally sporty departure from its predecessor. (Departure, as in: Leave that other model in the dust? Volkswagen won’t admit it, but yes. One word: Turbo. It’s been in the previous-gen, but I’m relieved to see they’re committed to it this time, too.)
Gearheads can get the technical details at VW’s Beetle microsite, hosted by partner MTV (hence the decidedly non-VW url). What average guys need to know is that, while the Turbo — one of four different, but all gasonomical, engine options — provides the legitimate power, the new Beetle’s exterior actually achieves, previously unthinkable, sleekness. (That said, the tuner crowd will opt for the red car and the business types are meant to but likely won’t opt for the white one; the only sensible choice is black.)
How did they do it? As explained by designer Klaus Bischoff during the reveal, the car was quite literally stretched: The 2012 Beetle is longer, wider, and lower to the ground than its predecessors. Still curvy but without the earlier-gen emphasis on semi-circles, the shape honours Ferdinand Porsche’s design template. This is, still, recognizably, the Beetle; no doubt that it’s different, though. In fact it’s…
“Muscular,” Bischoff tells us. Hmm, I would have gone with “sporty”; overused in the automotive industry but in this case accurate. I might be wrong, though, because Bischoff’s not the only suit trumpeting the m-word: I run out of fingers counting the instances that presenters and panelists deploy it. While we all understand that women have muscles, too, ‘muscular’ is certainly a term that carries a kneejerk masculine connotation, and clearly VW chose it carefully and made sure everyone was on-message. Throughout the reveal, while there are ceaseless reassurances that the new Beetle embraces its past, there are even more boasts that gen-three marks — and is this a male thing? — an “evolution.”
Of course, the proof will be in the drive itself. I can’t imagine anyone but diehard haters rejecting this model for its dynamic, honed — again, sporty — exterior design. The 2012 VW Beetle will be price-pointed at $25K (approx.), and is set to hit North America in September. DailyXY will get behind the wheel this summer and give you our honest opinion.
Still, will Muscles sell? Maybe the real question is whether most guys would agree that toning muscle groups constitutes, um, evolution.
Average guys? Oh, c’mon: definitely.