Volk­swa­gen is halt­ing pro­duc­tion of its iconic Bee­tle

Waterloo Region Record - - Business - GABRIELLE COPPOLA, CHRISTOPH RAUWALD AND KEITH NAUGHTON

Volk­swa­gen is end­ing world­wide pro­duc­tion of its iconic Bee­tle, the model once so pop­u­lar in North Amer­ica that it prompted the Ger­man au­tomaker to build its first fac­tory on the con­ti­nent in the 1960s.

The last one will roll off the line from the com­pany’s fac­tory in the state of Pue­bla, Mex­ico, in July 2019.

VW had been pulling the Bee­tle from se­lect mar­kets as part of a broader ef­fort by the Ger­man gi­ant to rein in its bloated prod­uct range, which spans more than 300 dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cles and vari­ants, in­clud­ing heavy trucks, mo­tor­bikes and pas­sen­ger cars. Cut­ting back on prod­uct com­plex­ity is one of the key ways the com­pany is trim­ming costs and get­ting leaner in the wake of its diesel emis­sions scan­dal.

On Fri­day, Han­dels­blatt re­ported VW also plans to halt pro­duc­tion for a week next month of the Golf at its huge fac­tory in Wolfs­burg, Ger­many. The model’s woes in­clude more com­plex emis­sion tests and plans to re­place the cur­rent ver­sion of the hatch­back.VW shares rose 0.6 per cent to 141.62 euros at 9:34 a.m. in Frank­furt, giv­ing a mar­ket value of 70 bil­lion euros.

CEO Her­bert Diess has been a driv­ing force be­hind this slim­ming down since he started lead­ing the main VW car brand in 2015. De­mand for the Bee­tle and other hatch­backs like the Golf has come un­der pres­sure as cus­tomer ap­petite has shifted to­ward sport util­ity ve­hi­cles.

“The mar­ket is mov­ing on,” said John Wolkonow­icz, an in­de­pen­dent auto an­a­lyst and in­dus­try his­to­rian in Bos­ton. “The people who wanted them, mostly baby-boomer women, bought them, en­joyed them and they’re on to some­thing else. Younger people don’t know what the point is.”

The Bee­tle played the star­ring role of Her­bie in the 1968 Dis­ney film, “The Love Bug.” The sen­tient race car sport­ing red, white and blue rac­ing stripes from the front to the back bumper head­lined sev­eral fol­lowup films and a tele­vi­sion series.

Bee­tle buy­ing in the U.S. peaked the same year of the orig­i­nal Dis­ney movie at about 423,000 units sold. The car be­came a phe­nom­e­non again in the 1990s when VW brought it back to Amer­ica after a 20-year lapse. Last year, VW de­liv­ered just 15,166 units — less than one­sev­enth the sales of the Jetta sedan. SUVs, mean­while, are cap­tur­ing record share of the mar­ket.

“The nos­tal­gia for the ’60s is go­ing away as the baby-boomer gen­er­a­tion is go­ing away,” Wolkonow­icz said. “Most baby boomers are get­ting older and need some­thing easy to get in and out of. Crossovers are easy to get in and out of, cars are not.”

Putting the Bee­tle out to pas­ture en­ables VW to pro­duce more of the other mod­els built in Pue­bla, in­clud­ing the Jetta sedan and Tiguan SUV. But the car may not go away for good: Diess has pon­dered re­viv­ing the Bee­tle as a fully elec­tric car to tap the model’s pop­u­lar cul­ture ca­chet. VW has touted the up­com­ing I.D. Neo hatch­back be­ing rolled out in 2020 as the po­ten­tial new Bee­tle for the elec­tric ve­hi­cle age.

“The loss of the Bee­tle after three gen­er­a­tions, over nearly seven decades, will evoke a host of emo­tions from the Bee­tle’s many de­voted fans,” Hin­rich Woe­bcken, CEO of Volk­swa­gen’s U.S. sales unit, said in a state­ment.

While there are no im­me­di­ate plans to re­place the car with a next-gen­er­a­tion ver­sion, he pointed to the I.D. Buzz — a mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the leg­endary VW Bus — to hint that the Bee­tle could one day make a come­back.

“Never say never,” Woe­bcken said.

ODED BALILTY THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Volk­swa­gen an­nounced it will stop mak­ing its iconic Bee­tle in July of next year. Volk­swa­gen of Amer­ica on Sept. 13 an­nounced the end of pro­duc­tion of the third-gen­er­a­tion Bee­tle by in­tro­duc­ing two fi­nal spe­cial edi­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.