Volkswagen of America is trying to bolster flagging sales of its New Beetle by targeting male buyers, Automotive News reports.

According to the newspaper, New Beetle sales were down each month in the second half of 2000 though the car ended the year with sales down just 2.8 percent to 81,134 units.

Automotive News says that VW is expecting a further slump this year to around 70,000 units but is targeting male buyers with a new limited edition Sport version with a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine, alloy wheels, leather upholstery and powerful stereo.

Currently, women account for 60 percent of New Beetle purchases.

Automotive News says that The New Beetle was very popular after its spring 1998 launch in the U.S. with customers having to wait weeks for their new cars. Sales in 1998 reached 55,842 units and topped 80,000 in 1999 and 2000.

New limited edition Sport version

Automotive News quotes Jamie Vondruska, managing editor at Vwvortex.com, a Web site for VW enthusiasts, as saying: "I think the New Beetle has seen its peak, but I'd be surprised if sales completely tanked. Volkswagen envisioned the New Beetle as more of a niche marketing product to get people to come into the showrooms."

Since launch the New Beetle has been given additional engine options and, from 2002, a convertible will be introduced.

Like the current three-door tin top, the convertible will be assembled in Volkswagen's plant in Puebla, Mexico.