End of the road for iconic car
Beetle mania to be thing of the past as VW squash the bug
Production of the famous Beetle car is to end amid a decline in sales.
Volkswagen will stop making the bug-shaped vehicle at its Mexico plant in July 2019 after releasing two special editions.
The Beetle was developed in Nazi Germany after it was conceived in the early 1930s by engineer Ferdinand Porsche.
He was commissioned by Hitler to develop a mass production car that could carry a family of four with luggage. Production was stalled by the onset of war, but in 1945 the Volkswagen factory was saved by the British Army’s Major Ivan Hirst. His belief that the affordable, reliable and practical vehicle would sell beyond Germany was correct.
The Beetle went on to be one of the biggest selling foreign-made cars in the US during the 1960s, proving popular with hippies.
It also featured in a series of Disney films as a sentient car named Herbie.
The car was sold for around 30 years in the US before being taken off the market in 1979. It went on and off sale several times in the following decades, with the last original design rolling out of the Mexico factory in 2003.
The Beetle was revamped in the late 1990s, proving particularly popular among female motorists.
US sales reached 46,000 in 2013 but later tailed off as demand for larger cars such as crossovers and sports utility vehicles rose.
Announcing the end of production, Volkswagen, which was hit by the diesel emissions scandal, said it was ramping up its development of electric vehicles.
VW US chief executive Hinrich Woebcken said: “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.”
Volkswagen has no plans to revive the muchcelebrated car again, but did not rule it out as a possibility.
It “runs and runs and runs and runs” went one advert for what is probably the world’s most recognisable car model. But is the VW Beetle, with its iconic Porsche-designed curves, actually now reaching the end of the road? If so, then the route to the final destination has been among the most extraordinary imaginable. From Hitler to hippies via Hollywood’s Herbie, the “Bug” has proved itself highly contagious right across the globe over seven decades and more. Has any other car in history been reinvented in quite so many weird and wonderful ways by its legions of devoted fans? Even the radical redesign of the late 1990s – decried by many purists – proved a massive success with a new generation of enthusiasts. The last car to roll off the production line will no doubt become a collectors’ items. Whether that is next year or not remains to be seen, given the Beetle’s cockroach-like history of survival against the odds.
CLASSIC CAR: A ‘Beetle on its back’ during the 1962 London Motor Show at Earl’s Court