The End Of The Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen recently announced that it was ending production of one of its most famous and recognizable models. The last Beetle rolls off the assembly line tomorrow.
Volkswagen says that it is ending production of one of its most famous and most recognizable cars:
t’s the end of an era — an era that has stretched on for a very long time, albeit with slightly different silhouettes.
The last Volkswagen Beetle, a third-generation Denim Blue coupe, will be produced in Puebla, Mexico, on Wednesday.
“It’s impossible to imagine where Volkswagen would be without the Beetle,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. “While its time has come, the role it has played in the evolution of our brand will be forever cherished.”
An emblem of the hippie era in America, the car was marketed in the U.S. as adorably uncool. Volkswagen promoted the Beetle with cheeky advertising campaigns using slogans like “Live below your means” and “It’s ugly, but it gets you there.” In 1969, one of the vehicles cost $1,799.
Perhaps that image — and its good value — helped the auto to overcome a not-proud history: Volkswagen was founded as a project of Adolf Hitler, and its earliest cars were used for both civilian and military purposes. Volkswagen was relaunched by British authorities after World War II, and its car was rebranded as the Beetle to distance it from its Nazi heritage.
Volkswagen launched the New Beetle in the 1998 model year, aiming for whimsy with a built-in flower vase. It found initial success, with 80,000 sold in the U.S. in 1999.
The automaker revamped the Beetle again for 2012, but sales sputtered as time went on and SUVs became popular in the U.S.
As Volkswagen writes in a love letter to its most famous creation: “Cult is not necessarily synonymous with sales. … The Beetle has not been able to attain the global success of the new ‘Volkswagen,’ the Golf.”
When I was growing up in the 1970s, the Volkwagen Beetle became something of a cultural icon thanks in part to the aforementioned “Herbie” movies. It also achieved commercial success as the price of gas began to increase over the course of that decade and the nation experienced gasoline shortages brought about by the OPEC oil embargos and other factors.
It also attracted attention because of the fact that it looked so different from the American cars that were on the road at the time, and because of several design differences that caught people’s attention. The most notable of these differences is the fact that the Beetle’s engine was in the rear of the vehicle rather the front, while the space in the front of the car served the same purpose that the trunk did in other vehicles.
At some point, the car seemed to become less popular in the United States, due in some part, no doubt, to competition from the Japanese-made cars from Toyota, Honda, and Nissan (first known as Datsun when they came to the U.S.) started showing up on American shores. I’m not sure if the Beetle ever completely disappeared from the American market, but I do recall that the redesign that was introduced in the late 90s sought to recapture some of that 1970s nostalgia as well as introducing things like the aforementioned convertible model.
Even to this day I still see some of the “old style” Beetles that were sold in the 70s on the road as well as the newer model that has been around for twenty years or so. In any case, it appears that this time the Beetle has fallen victim to the same thing has brought about the end of several car designs in recent years. American consumers for several years now have been gravitating toward SUV’s and their somewhat smaller cousins in the form of “crossover” vehicles like the Honda CR-V. As a result, it’s becoming less profitable for manufacturers to make traditional sedans or compact vehicles like the Beetle. That’s consumer choice in action.
In any case, say goodbye to the Beetle.