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.

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