Capitalizing on a name from its past, Volkswagen is marketing the new compact Rabbit with cheeky Web material and commercials featuring a new logo of the long-eared variety.
The Rabbit is being pitched to young urban buyers. VW is concentrating its marketing in 15 cities, including New York, Houston, Chicago and San Francisco.
"Small on the outside and big on the inside" is one key message VW is pushing with the Rabbit, says Karen Marderosian, director of marketing for the brand.
The Rabbit, a compact hatchback, is the U.S. replacement for the Golf, which was updated in Europe in 2003. All other markets continue to use the Golf name.
A key element in advertising will be the base price of $14,990, which doesn't include shipping. The 2006 Golf has a base price of $16,660, including shipping. VW will be "clearly pushing the price," Marderosian says.
"We want to reclaim Volkswagen's stake in the affordable car market," Marderosian says .
Dealers had urged VW to offer a car in the $15,000 range. They complained that VW was losing that market segment as it moved the Jetta and Passat sedans upscale.
The car is positioned to attract buyers 18 to 34 years old. VW will target them online through search engines such as Google, in city weekly magazines such as the The Village Voice in New York and L.A. Weekly and on hip Internet sites.
VW has even asked the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for permission to transform the exterior of one of the Lincoln Tunnel openings into a rabbit hole. Marderosian says the Port Authority is considering it.
A new commercial uses a birds-and-bees theme. It shows two Rabbits in love driving around each other in New York in a flirtatious manner. They disappear into a tunnel and emerge with more Rabbits behind them. Those Rabbits continue the mating game and duck into garages and other openings. The ad ends with dozens of Rabbits clogging an intersection.
The humorous Rabbit commercials continue VW's attempts to create edgy and noticeable marketing, which intensified with the arrival of Kerri Martin, director of brand innovation, in the spring of 2005.
VW has set modest sales targets of 10,000 to 12,000 units this year for the 2007-model Rabbit, which went on sale last month. Next year's goal is 15,000 to 20,000 units.
You may e-mail Diana T. Kurylko at [email protected]