End of the road for iconic car

Bee­tle ma­nia to be thing of the past as VW squash the bug

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - FRONT PAGE - BY NEIL LANCEFIELD

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

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