After dominating the afternoon talk show circuit for 25 years, Oprah Winfrey is going out in style by giving each member of her studio audience keys to the as-yet-unseen 2012 Volkswagen Beetle. The promotion is part of Oprah's Ultimate Favorite Things giveaway, in which audience members are lavished with pricey surprise gifts of all descriptions.
Jonathan Browning, President and CEO of Volkswagen of America, confirmed that Winfrey reached out to the German automaker about the giveaway, saying that as an owner of the current VW New Beetle, the icon has long been one of her Favorite Things. The show, which aired moments ago on ABC, saw Oprah making the surprise announcement in front of a silhouette of the forthcoming model, and a current model New Beetle was featured on stage. While Browning admits that Oprah has been given a sneak peek at the completed car, her 275 lucky audience members will be in the dark about their new rides look until VW reveals it at a date to be determined this Spring (read: it won't be shown at the Detroit Auto Show in January). Audience members will receive their cars next Fall when VW's Puebla, Mexico plant begins production.
While VW officials declined to talk in detail about the 2012 Beetle, Browning did confirm that the new model will feature technologies like Bluetooth integration and a touchscreen stereo display, along with branded audio systems and ambient lighting. More importantly, Browning insists that the new model will have a decidedly sportier bent than previous iterations. The 2012 Beetle will feature available performance-minded items like a stiffer suspension, sport seats, 19-inch wheels and dual exhausts.
This more sporting attitude is interesting, in part because VW officials have previously indicated that they hope to 'degender' the new model (the New Beetle's image and ownership base has long skewed heavily female). Given this positioning, the decision to launch a major promotion with Oprah Winfrey may seem a bit curious, but VW knows that it will still need to woo the current New Beetle's core audience in order for the 2012 model to be a success.
Autoblog was able to confirm that not only will VW's TDI engines figure in to the model's plans, clean diesel technology will even be available in the Cabriolet model, making it the first modern oil-burning convertible sold in the States. The company's venerable 2.0-liter turbo gasoline engine will also be available, but there's no word yet about a dedicated high-performance model or a possible hybrid variant.
This is not the first time Oprah has given away new cars as part of her Favorite Things show - she famously handed over the keys to 276 then-new Pontiac G6 sedans back in 2004 as part of a $7.7M promotion. Nor is it the first time that the talk show queen has worked with Volkswagen - last year she gave away a pair of Routan minivans. Click through to the jump to watch video of Oprah breaking the news to her studio audience.
Gallery: Spy Shots: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle
[Sources: Volkswagen, ABC News | Gallery Images: CarPix] originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 22 Nov 2010