Day of the Dead for Beetle in Mexico
Historic Volkswagen model finally coming to an end after a near-80-year run
When a manufacturer pulls the plug on a vehicle — even an iconic one — it usually goes out with a whimper. Not Volkswagen’s last Beetle. Nope, the last “love bug” rolling off the line is definitely going out with a bang.
The Beetle may have begun in 1945, but it was when car advertising was essentially reinvented in the 1960s that the Beetle blasted into pop-culture relevance. The huge plant in Puebla, Mexico, started making Beetles soon after it opened in 1965. By 1978, Germany had ceased production of them, so all Beetles for the world were made in Mexico after that.
The first-generation Beetle bit the dust in Canada in 1979, after selling nearly half a million since 1952.
Everyone has an original Beetle story. Scraping the windshield from the inside in winter? Check. The tiny glove box that holds a pack of Chiclets? Ditto. Literally cranking open the sunroof to sing Motown hits at the top of your lungs as you drive to the cottage? OK, some stories may not be so universal.
The second-generation “New Beetle” appeared in 1998, followed by the Convertible in 2003. Throughout this time, Puebla continued to make the first-generation “Ultima Edicion” until 2003.
The New Beetle sold 42,588 units in Canada between 1998 and 2010. Sporting a vase with a loopy flower, among other whimsical touches, the Beetle quickly was tagged a chick car. VW eventually decided to go after more of the whole market with the launch of the Beetle in 2012, essentially squashing it down a little for a more streamlined shape, and adding a bigger trunk and more advanced infotainment systems. That jacked sales a little, but they settled back down — and so here we are.
There aren’t any significant changes to Final Edition Beetle. It never was a car you could talk someone into buying, but it also was one you could never talk them out of.
The birthplace of nearly every Beetle you see, the Puebla facility, is huge. Over three million square-metres on a plot of 310 hectares, it employs 14,000 VW employees, though a total of 42,000 people from many related industries come through the doors to work each day. It’s a self-contained city, with everything from supermarkets, a hospital, banks and cantinas. VW Puebla even has a private bus station with 130 routes to get employees to work. If you’ve ever experienced Mexico’s traffic, you’ll know why that was a wise decision.
In Mexico, you’d have your arm rapidly bruised playing punch-buggy-no-punchbacks. And the models spotted everywhere, sporting varying degrees of love and decay, are mostly the originals. That’s a compliment to the brand, as well as the design.
Which brings us to 2019, and the Final Edition Beetle, or the Wolfsburg Edition in Canada. VW will continue to sell the current Dune trim in 2019 in both coupe and convertible forms, but will add the Wolfsburg Edition, the one that will close the curtain on nearly 80 years of automotive history.
To the three existing Beetle colours, VW will add a Stonewashed Blue — which looks lovely — and Safari Uni, resembling an oatmeal cookie someone else already ate. Good for hotter climes, I’m sure.
Although it is available in both coupe and convertible, you should buy the convertible. This car was built to be a convertible, and it’s fun. Both sport the same 2.0-litre turbo-four with 174 horsepower, 184 pound-feet of torque and only a six-speed automatic. This is sad; no more stick shift from the car on which many of us learned to drive standard. Who didn’t know someone who paid 500 bucks for a Beetle, then sold it two years later for the same $500?
Fuel economy is the same on both — 9.0 L/100 kilometres in the city, 7.1 on the highway — and interiors are nicely appointed and representative of the segment. The larger, leather-wrapped steering wheel is nice after the recent trend to smaller ones. Canada will see standard GPS navigation, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and rain-sensing wipers, among other now industry-standard kit, such as heated seats.
For $24,475 for the coupe or $28,475 for the convertible, you get a competent ride that handles well, has good pick up and works well in tight cities. The front seats bend forward and then stand up, like an accommodating theatregoer when you show up late and have to get by.
It’s a nice touch for a twodoor, and especially for those of us who are less bendy as we age. The rear seat is OK for adults, but not for extended journeys; throw the kids back there.
There’s just one available extra package on both vehicles: the $1,750 Style Package. This bumps the wheels to VW’s 18-inch Disc style, a white Lego-like addition I haven’t decided if I like or not. Bi-xenon headlights with LED DRLs, LED tail lights, front sport seats with diamond-stitched leather and front fog lights round out the package.
Celebrating the end of an era in a city celebrating the Day of the Dead is a wink and nod, fitting well with those Mad Men-era ad campaigns. Volkswagen gets it, and is smiling.
The 2019 Volkswagen Beetle Final Edition, also known as the Wolfsburg Edition in Canada, now comes in Stonewashed Blue.
The larger, leather-wrapped wheel is nice after the trend to smaller ones.