The Chick Car Chauvinists

1978 Volkswagen Beetle, rear driver's side

What real men drove in 1978

Earlier this week car enthusiasts got a real dose of male chauvinism regarding the “more masculine” 2012 Beetle. Volkswagen itself led the way with its campaign to attract more male buyers.

When I last wrote about this foolishness in April, I made the pitch that

VW’s most important objective was to counter the image of the 1998-2010 New Beetle as a “chick car.” I owned one of these, because it had a good turbo engine and was a beautiful design. It turns out that two-thirds of the buyers of that car were women—which never caused me any embarrassment.

Maybe those women have more taste than men. Now the macho car writers are beating their chests that not only is the 2012 Beetle much more masculine in appearance (really?), but with 20 more horsepower in the base car, male buyers will come out in droves.

2009 Volkswagen Beetle convertible

2009 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

These zucchini-heads are taking their cues from VW of America’s Rainer Michel, VP of marketing and strategy, whom they quote as if he were Mitt Romney talking on health care. VW won’t disclose how many of these testosterone-mobiles it expects to sell, but did say that sales won’t equal the 84,434 New Beetles sold in 1999.

So the company wants to sell fewer cars but to more male buyers. I don’t get it. Last time I checked, women bought about half the cars in this country.

A lot of them drive SUVs and muscle cars, Suburbans and Mustangs. But the macho car bloggers have their own stereotypes. Jalopnik:

The all-new 2012 Volkswagen Beetle ditches the flowers for more power, bringing design and engineering back into this century with a masculine look decidedly planted in the last one. …These days, marketers believe that the death knell of a car comes when people consider it’s too “girlie.” And that’s precisely the one broad stroke the second-generation Beetle found itself brushed with. [sic]

Motor Trend:

The last Beetle even got itself tagged with the unenviable label of “chick car,” though it was worse than that. Long story short: Hot chicks drive Jettas; weird chicks drive Bugs.

And our own tgriffith:

The new one, the 2012 Beetle, has managed to broaden its appeal past the miniskirt-wearing crowd and become a car that a man, a real car-loving performance-obsessed man, can drive without hunkering down and hoping no one sees him.

If you are that consumed with your car as an image of your maleness, there’s something wrong with you, Jack.

Car writers are a strange breed. Like chickens, they are quick to peck up the latest tidbits the industry marketers throw at them. In order to be real guys, many have to flaunt their sexist preferences in cars. And all this chest-beating hurts business, because it creates stereotypes where none should exist.

Two years ago, Jerry Flint wrote a good piece about the pejorative use of “chick cars.” More of today’s car writers should have read it.

Do you think the chick car-male car concepts help sell cars?

—jgoods

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2 Comments

  1. You guys can’t figure it out, can you?

    Guys buy more options, and those are the expensive options. The gals tend to be conservative and like comfort and paint options, while the guys go for the nav systems, turbos, six-speeds, and big tires on shiney wheels. That’s why VW wants to attract more guys. You did notice the extra horsepower, right?

    Chrysler had the same problem with the Jeep Liberty, which was considered a chick mobile. Chrysler didn’t mind the sales, but the girls weren’t spending enough on each unit, so they tightened up the styling and aimed their advertising more at men. I don’t know whether it worked or not.

  2. This car is roughly 75 years old and still looks pretty much the same since Hitler came up with the peoples car concept. You could have your 3 year old draw the shape and anyone on this planet could tell you its a Bug. So at one time it is a chick car and other times its not??? Really?? A chauvinists car?? Really?? If the apparent dichotomy works to sell the car, let the dichotomy continue!!

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