Earlier this week, Volkswagen officially revealed the all-new 2012 VW Beetle. After months of teases, the slightly more relaxed silhouette and softened 'Beetle dome' wasn't so much of a surprise. Yet the exterior details, which come across as less soft and carefree, more sporty and aggressive, hint that this is no love bug.
And then there's the interior. The original New Beetle came with an interior that looked nothing—absolutely nothing—like that of the Golf, Jetta, or GTI with which it shared some underpinnings. However, the new version of the Beetle trades off the distinctive for a sporty but somewhat ordinary looking instrument panel.
Out with the flower vase, in with the Fender sound system
Processing the design decisions, it's hard to ignore that Volkswagen is clearly trying to make the new (note the lower case) Beetle more butch. The outgoing New Beetle has, for years, landed near the top among vehicles purchased by (and driven by) women, and the flower vase might have had something to do with it.
That flower vase is now gone, replaced by an available modern navigation system, a large glass roof, and a sound system co-developed with the guitar-and-amp maker Fender. If VW has its way, it's a lady bug no more.
But is it losing its charm in the process? Earlier this week, in a live chat, we started to tackle such questions, and it's worth thinking about the mark that the New Beetle has made on car culture. It's essentially the car that kicked off (at least for the U.S.) the whole retro-styling revolution, with a host of 'deliberately retro' or 'retro-fashionable' models like the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevrolet HHR, and the Mini Cooper following suit.
Of those, the one that had the most ordinary interior—the Chevrolet HHR—has never clicked as a must-have vehicle and has been relegated to fleets, largely.
Women felt like flower girls; men felt like Pee Wee?
The New Beetle rolled out for 1998, which proved perfect timing to both capitalize on aging, empty-nester Boomers who felt nostalgic for a time of patchouli and flower power—but what made it such a lasting, phenomenal sales success is that it also appealed strongly to the daughters (and sons) of that generation.