Let's take a trip back to November 2010 when talk-show host Oprah Winfrey announced that everyone in her audience would be receiving a redesigned 2012 Volkswagen Beetle, though the design was kept under wraps at the time. It seemed an obvious choice for Volkswagen to call on the Beetle's trusty female base to drive excitement about its iconic "chick car."
Months later, when the 2012 Beetle emerged from under wraps in an advertisement announcing, "It's a boy," people were talking about the car's masculine look. A streamlined, flattened body and removal of the previous model's bubbly, cute features (ahem, flower vase) sparked talk about VW abandoning the Volkswagen Beetle's female-centric look to drive sales and appeal to more buyers.
"The current-generation VW Beetle was designed to be a modern reinterpretation of the original model," Darryll Harrison Jr., Volkswagen's public relations manager, said in an email. "The Volkswagen Beetle's current design is also bolder than the outgoing model ... successfully bringing more customers into the VW family."
At water coolers and online, men cheered Volkswagen's move, but did they buy it? With a couple years of sales under its belt, we took a look at the Beetle's numbers to see if the Volkswagen Beetle's newfound masculinity paid off.
Volkswagen says that in the New Beetle generation (1998-2011), men purchased 24 percent of VW Beetle coupes (women purchased 76 percent) and 29 percent of the Beetle convertibles (women purchased 71 percent). The current generation Volkswagen Beetle's numbers show that coupe and convertible sales break out about the same by gender, with women purchasing 65 percent and men 35 percent of VW Beetle's.
"We have found that the new, bolder design has not only attracted female customers, but more male customers. The new male buyers that have purchased the Beetle represent incremental sales increases over the previous-generation model," Harrison said of the VW car's new design.
So, yes, more men are buying the VW Beetle. But, even with the increase of men buying the iconic bug overall, fewer Beetles have sold. Despite more men coming to the Beetle party, numbers suggest it wasn't enough to make up for slower sales for the bug model.
"In its best year since the 2012 redesign — 2013, when the Beetle cracked 43,000 sales — it still only accounted for 0.28 percent of industry sales. Through November 2014, it's slipped behind the Jetta, Passat and Golf/GTI in terms of sales." Cars.com Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays said of the VW Beetle.
"Annual sales [of the New Beetle] peaked in the 80,000s in 1999 and 2000," he said. "At the time, that was about 0.5 percent of industry sales — exceptional for a sporty, two-door car with limited family viability."
Even with the overall sales decline since its redesign, Harrison said the VW Beetle is on steady footing. "The current-generation Beetle has been successful ... and remains one of the brand's core models in the lineup." But what does Oprah think?!
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Dec. 30 to reflect that 65 percent of women buy the current-generation Beetle.
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears