Oprah Winfrey Gives Away Volkswagen’s 2012 Beetle to Audience

American talk show host Oprah Winfrey gave every person in her studio audience the yet-to-be-revealed 2012 Beetle courtesy of Volkswagen AG.

Winfrey, who herself owns a version of the current Beetle, showed a silhouette of 2012 Beetle to audience members yesterday before saying that all 275 of them would get one for free when it comes on the market.

“Oprah Winfrey and the Volkswagen Beetle are two American icons, so when the ‘Oprah’ show approached us with this incredible opportunity to share her Beetle experience with deserving viewers, we instantly wanted to be a part of it,” Jonathan Browning, VW’s U.S. chief, said in a statement.

VW brought out a new version of the Beetle in the 1990s to capitalize on Americans’ nostalgia for the model, which reached iconic status in the U.S. and was featured in films, including in a Walt Disney Co. comedy series “The Love Bug” as the main character Herbie. The car is produced in Mexico.

Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn aims to boost U.S. sales as part of a plan to overtake Toyota Motor Corp. as the world’s largest carmaker by 2018. Appearing on the show is a marketing coup for the German carmaker because Winfrey has the top rated daytime talk show in the U.S. and has garnered additional attention because her program is in its last year.

Volkswagen aims to sell 1 million cars and sport-utility vehicles in the U.S. by 2018, with its Audi luxury division accounting for 20 percent of that figure. VW sold about 214,000 cars in the U.S. in 2009, excluding Audi. VW next year will begin selling a mid-sized sedan built exclusively for the U.S. market and open a new factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Winfrey featured the Beetle on a regular program where she unveils her “favorite things” and provides the items to her studio audience. She gave away cars one other time on her show, when General Motors Co. donated Pontiac G6s. Some audience members afterward had trouble paying the taxes and fees for the car. This time, VW is covering those costs as well.

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