VW partners with Lucasfilm for Super Bowl ad

Automaker and filmmaker partner on Star Wars ads for 2012 Passat, but with spy photos already out, will the ad "overhype" the still-under-wraps new Beetle model?

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
3 min read
Volkswagen's ad for the 2012 Beetle, which alleged spy photos show to be a cross between a Beetle and a Porsche in body style. 2011 Volkswagen of America

Volkswagen announced today it's bought two Super Bowl ad spots for its 2012 Beetle and Passat, and has partnered with Lucasfilm to promote the Passat.

The two 30-second spots will appear during the second and fourth quarters of Super Bowl XLV, according to VW.

"Accompanied by John Williams' iconic 'The Imperial March,' the [Passat] spot features the most infamous villain in the galaxy, a pint-sized Darth Vader who uses the Force when he discovers the all-new 2012 Passat in the driveway," according to Volkswagen.

The other ad for the 2012 Beetle will notably not show the car, according to VW.

"The [Beetle] ad is an homage to some of the greatest car chase scenes in the history of film and TV," VW said in a statement.

A silhouette with the tagline "It's a Beetle. But it's not" has been VW's campaign method during its spots on the NBA Finals and a promotional deal with the "Oprah Winfrey Show," as part of the buildup to when the car goes on sale in the fall.

But with alleged spy photos of the car already on the Internet, unless the car is an EV or hybrid, the campaign tactic might be overhype.

The 2012 Beetle will represent a complete redesign since the car's first redesign of the iconic 1938 car in 1998 to the New Beetle. While Volkswagen has revealed some details on the specs, the company has otherwise been keeping tight wraps on its "21st Century Beetle."

Even as media mogul Oprah Winfrey, a known VW Beetle driver and fan, announced that guests of her "Favorite Things" episode would be receiving the 2012 VW Beetle, only the 2012 Beetle's silhouette and key fobs were shown. Winfrey was shown the 2012 Beetle privately and her reaction was videotaped then shown on her program with her gasping in pleasure and saying that it was "very sporty."

Many have speculated that the 2012 Beetle will be an EV or a plug-in hybrid, and reflect characteristics present in past VW prototypes at auto shows. It's very possible since the 1998 New Beetle was created using the Golf platform, and VW has already announced that its electric Golf Blue E-motion prototype will become a reality and offer a range of 90 to 100 miles.

Alleged spy photos of the 2012 Beetle prototype have made their way not only to the usual auto blogs, but also to mainstream media sites like The New York Times. The car featured in those photos looks like a cross between the current New Beetle and a Porsche 356. That's not too shocking considering the campaign's tag line, and the fact that there's been a plethora of talk on creating crossover vehicles now that Volkswagen is merging with Porsche.

So if all VW has to offer is new body style and moderate drivetrain changes, the hype surrounding VW's mystery 2012 Beetle redesign campaign might have succeeded in overhyping information already out in the ether.

Stefan Jacoby, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, has told several news outlets that while the new Beetle won't necessarily be much bigger, it will feature roomier back seats.

The 2012 Passat, meanwhile has already been unveiled and was most recently showcased at the 2011 Detroit auto show in early January. Most notable is that the 2-liter diesel engine version of the Passat will get 43 mpg and have a range of 800 miles.

Clarification 11:55 a.m. PT: Story updated to reflect the uncertain nature of the Porsche/Volkswagen merger. As of this publication date, it's unclear how the complicated merger will resolve ownership. Each company has made claims that it will own the other once the merger is complete.