Thursday, September 15, 2011

Will making the VW Beetle more masculine sell more cars?


In a few weeks a new version of the Volkswagen Beetle will be launched with great fanfare.  Since the announcement of the impending launch was made back in April, much of the discussion surrounding the car has been about the fact that the 1998 version had a reputation as a girls' car, and that conventional wisdom says that girls' cars don’t sell. (Forbes, 2011)

Excuse me?  According to, women buy more than half of new cars in the US, and influence 80% of all car purchases. (M2W, 2011) A study done by R.L. Polk & Co. in March showed that over the past four years the number of women buying cars has steadily increased and car purchases by African-American, Asian and Hispanic women are up 4.7% versus year ago.  (Tokic, 2011).

Not to mention the fact that I have long suspected that the reason Cadillac was the only car to show sales increases during the recession was due to their brilliant female-focused ad.

So what do you think?  Is a focus on men going to be a winning strategy for VW?

Forbes, T. (2011, September 12).  VW Hopes Men Will Catch The Bug.

Retrieved September 14, 2011, from

M2W. (2011, April 13).  Fast Facts.  Retrieved September 14, 2011, from

Tokic, A. (2011, March 30).  Report: African-American, Asian and Hispanic Women Driving Auto Sales.  Retrieved September 14, 2011, from


  1. First of all, I just want to say how much I love that car commercial! The catch line; "The real question is; when you turn your car on, does it return the favor?" Such a good line!

    Anyways, I do agree with the idea that the Beetle is more of a girls car. I'm not trying to be sexist at all but I usually see females driving it and also, when you buy a Beetle, there is a spot on the dash that holds a vace and a fake flower that come free with the car....I don't know many guys that would find this appealing. However, the statement about how "girl's cars don't sell" I find to be quite inaccurate. I can't speak for all women but I absolutely love to drive and if I could buy any car, it would be the one in the commercial above. The commercial is targetting females becuase it is showing how we can have cars just as nice as the boys and we can go just as fast, if not faster. The idea of power with a twist of personal connection with a car appeals to me and I'm assuming I'm not the only one. It doesn't surprise me that this commercial was a hit. So to say that "girl's" cars don't see is an uneducated statement. The Cadillac ad above might not be a girls car but it is surely appealing to women. Why would a dealer such as Cadillac target a car ad at women if they didn't buy cars? I think Forbes needs to do some more research.

    Cassie Mull

  2. I think that it could be a winning strategy for the Beetle if they are looking to expand their range. However, given the above statistics, I dont think it would be a good idea to put no effort into maintaining women as the main target. Perhaps running two different kinds of commercials or ads would be the most effective way to reach the target they currently have and the target they want to attain.
    As far as whether or not it will work, its hard to say... reputations don't just go away. The Beetle has the reputation of being a woman's car, so they are really going to have to work to change that image. even then, with this being a costly car, it'd be even more difficult to get old men to change the view they've seen of the car for years and years..If women are buying more cars, maybe Volkswagen would be better off just appealing to women, the more solid target which has been growing in size (in terms of car purchases).

    - Catherine D.

  3. I also disagree with the statement that "girl's cars don't sell". Nevertheless I don't have high hopes for VW Beetle sales within the male category, the model is very feminine and its been perceived as a woman's car for years. Don't get me wrong, I do think that there are many other car models from VW, BMW, Toyota, Mercedes, ect.. that have equal appeal to both sexes. The VW Beetle just isn't one of them. Remember the diet coke example, and how a majority men usually don't buy it? Well in my opinion the VW Beetle would sound like a "diet' car to most men.

    Think about it this way: a few men will go on to purchase a VW Beetle just like a few women will go on to purchase the new Hummer model (or whatever other super masculine car you can think of).

    -Salim L.

  4. Although women may be a growing demographic when it comes to car purchases, a recent analysis by showed that women were buying more cost conscious and fuel efficient vehicles where as men purchased more high-priced high performance vehicles. Additionally, in 2010 only 44% of new beetle buyers were men meaning that no other car on the market had a lower percentage of guys behind the wheel. Along with the redesign of the car, (based on the style of the older 1969 beetle), offering a more powerful 200 horsepower turbo engine option and a marketing plan to target the male consumer, VW may feel that women will continue buying the car at the same rate because it already falls into the type of vehicle women prefer to buy, but by targeting men specifically, more male driver may decide to get behind the wheel of the bug thus increasing it's overall appeal to everyone. The analysis also noted that the two brands with the highest number of female buyers was Mini and Kia, with the VW Beetle being the number one car model for women buyers. Men are still the majority of car buyers and having a vehicle that both men and women can enjoy can only sell more cars. However, I'm still not sure whether most men would buy the redesigned beetle because of the potential stigma attached. Good ads with a masculine feel may turn the tide and place the Beetle as a small alternative for everyone, like the Mini Cooper, Fiat 500 and the Smart Car

  5. Wait, so now marketers *don't* want to target affluent women? I thought that demographic was precisely the holy grail of tons of marketers.

    Now yes, the ad clearly targets women, but any guy is going to take notice of an A) attractive woman who B) drives fast cars and is apparently C) turned on by the experience (or maybe that's just me).

    My suggestion for VW: instead of whining about what target markets your product doesn't reach, focus on those targets that it does, and sell it 24/7/365. Then, work on figuring out how to iterate your product so that you can expand its appeal without eroding that loyal customer base you just created. Sure, you don't want to turn Volkswagen into "Frauenwagen", but women are legendarily loyal purchasers (trying to find evidence is harder for this than I thought, and "What Drives Car Buyers" by J. Marney from Marketing Magazine in 1994 isn't bloody available in the library databases, it appears), and I would think in this economy, any real progress you can make with any demographic is huge, especially as women are becoming so much more economically powerful as compared to previous decades.

  6. Small cars have always been considered a ladies ride. Real men want real rides. Dainty,feminine should never describes a man's car. What type of men will VW target? By the way.... I LUV CADDY'S. Wish I was the women in the commercial, and the ride was mine.

  7. I do think this effort has great chances for success, particularly given the current economic climate.

    Volkswagen has a long established reputation for being a sensible and reliable automobile. The earliest Beetles were relatively inexpensive, simple cars with few creature comforts. Over the past fifty years, the Beetle has become more stylish and certainly higher priced than in the beginning.

    The recent popularity of the Beetle with women may be due in large part to the exterior colors projecting a "soft" image. I think that some tweeking of the model to emphasize its stability and efficiency may appeal to the male market. Relative to some of the recently introduced hybrids on the road, the Beetle begins to seem almost sturdy.

    An emphasis on the model's long history and evolution as well as its fuel efficiency and well-respected German engineering should provide strong positioning for the 18-49 male market.


  8. I think the VW Beetle campaign will be successful and show growth in sales. I say this for a couple of reasons. 1) Traditionally the Beetle would be considered a vehicle that more females would drive. Now with the new design, I believe that the Beetle will keep its female drivers but also pick up sales in the Male 16-25 age category. 2) The VW Beetle is an iconic car and has been in existence since the 1950's. To an older demographic this car may represent a type of nostalgia, and which it's redesign they may be eager to get behind the wheel.

  9. Two days ago there was article ran in the WSJ talking directly to the point of VW's intent of seizing more of the male market share for the VW Beetle. The article mentioned a billboard with the a picture of the new Beetle and the headline "It's a boy." If there were any doubts about VW's intention with the redesign, their ads should put them to rest.

    I feel like Beetles were once regarded as a sporty German vehicle, forgive the term but almost a "poor man's" Porsche before the association between VW and hippie dominated their brand in the 60's and 70's.

    The ad's don't have to focus on the male market 100%. Just like the previous ad campaigns that others talked about in this blog with flowers in the cars, flower rims, bring back a supplemental campaign targeted to women as well to hold that market share and further grow sales among men with the German engineering and sporty driving sales pitch.

    Ben K.