Brenda Hagar begged a Volkswagen dealer three years ago to find her a pink Beetle convertible or make her one. When he did, she bought it on the spot, sight unseen.
She rerouted her flight home from a Mexico vacation to pick it up in Texas, driving all the way home to Oklahoma City in November with the top down to help make room for her and her husband’s diving gear. When she finally reached her hometown, she cruised in her new pink VW down Main Street, exactly five years to the day of being cancer free.
“My VW is used as a calling card,” said Hagar, 57, in a telephone interview. “I had a guy run me down in the parking lot because he wanted to know where he could find a pink VW because his daughter was a cancer survivor and he wanted to buy her one.”
Soon, he will be able to. Tapping sentiment like Hagar’s – when demand for a car borders on desire – Volkswagen plans to release a limited-edition 2017 #PinkBeetle in the U.S. this fall. The aim is to lure all lovers of pink – from cancer survivors to drivers that don’t want to be highway wallflowers. When the concept for the model was unveiled during the New York Auto Show in 2015, it spawned a social movement and popularized the #PinkBeetle hashtag – a moniker that will serve as the name of the car, making it the first automobile to sport social media shorthand.
“It was really customers screaming at us, ‘We need color, we need color,’’’ said Jeffrey Lear, the current product planner for VW Beetle models. “The Beetle is an emotional car, and color really sells the car.”
Dealers had long known about the power of pink to sell Beetle models.
Miles Brandon, who owns a VW dealership in San Capistrano, California, painted Beetle models pink for five years, starting in 2005. He painted 29 Beetles bright bubble gum pink and a single car purple during that time period – and all of them sold.
“The worst thing you can do for a Beetle is to paint it a plain color,” said Brandon. “They are screaming for color. Every time the dealership is able to get its hand on a colorful Beetle, the model does well.”
Miles said the color du jour is Habanero Orange. All three Beetles delivered to his dealership in that vibrant shade sold almost immediately, he said.
For Volkswagen, the idea of the #PinkBeetle has been years in the making, but it was hatched at a workshop in Mexico in the spring of 2014. Dealers from around the country gathered in Puebla, the location of the factory where VW Beetles are built, to discuss what special models might be of interest. Miles was among the dealers gathered.
“A lot of the dealers said they had people coming in asking all the time for a pink Beetle,” said Kerry Dickson, who was the Beetle’s product planner until October. “The time had finally come for us to embrace what our owners wanted.”
One of the most difficult decisions was what shade of pink to paint the car. Designers in Germany wanted a pink that would show off the lines of the car. Customers and dealers in China wanted a vivid hue, closer to those from popular cartoon art. The final product is a metallic fuchsia.
Back in Oklahoma City, Hagar, whose 2013 pink Beetle (hashtag not included) has 30,000 miles on it, says she is ready for the #PinkBeetle revolution.
“I will still be able to say mine is one of a kind,” she said. “But I think the young girls are going to go crazy over it, I really do. My granddaughter is six and she is counting down the years to when she gets her driving license. She says today, ‘It’s my car, but I let my Gaga drive it.’”