Legendary VW Beetle finally bows out
The ‘new Beetle’, the latest incarnation of the legendary Volkswagen Beetle will be produced until July 2019. After that it seems to be a final over and out for one of the most iconic cars in history.
It was Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen North America, who announced the discontinuation in the summer of next year of VW’s new Beetle production at its Mexican plant of Puebla. “A successor is not foreseen”, Woebcken declared, but he added cautiously “never say never” when asked if the decision was really final.
Fatherhood being contested
In many tales about the original Beetle, the car was an idea of German Reichsführer Adolf Hitler in the early 1930s, who wanted a ‘car for the public’, a ‘Volkswagen’ in German, and asked Ferdinand Porsche to conceive one.
Less known is the fact that another German engineer, Josef Ganz, already had built (and raced) a Beetle-like car in the late 20’s and had presented his people car to the ‘Führer’ on the Berlin Motorshow in 1933. Ganz was Jewish, though, and quickly discarded.
‘Father of car safety’
So the Führer asked fellow Austrian, Ferdinand Porsche, to create the car. Porsche more or less stole the idea of an Austro-Hungarian engineer, Béla Barényi, who already drew a Beetle-like car in 1925. Barényi will later work for Daimler and is officially recognized as the ‘father of car safety’, having more than 1.200 patents on (mainly) safety features for cars. He died in 1997.
The Volkswagen wasn’t a success in prewar Germany, but after the second world war Allied Forces started (fairly reluctantly) the production of the original Beetle in the small German city of Wolfsburg. Nobody would have dreamed that it would become one of the world’s biggest car sales successes, selling 21,5 million times between 1945 and 2003.
Car of Peace and Love
The most successful years were the 60’s and 70’s, when the Beetle became trendy in the States as the car of Peace and Love, of the rebelling youth. He was bought (and personaliszed) by public figures, like John Lennon and Andy Warhol, and it became immortal as ‘Herbie’, the main role in a Disney picture of 1968.
However, in the 90’s its success faded and its inherent defaults became more apparent: exaggerated consumption, approximate road holding, bad brakes… Since 1974 Volkswagen itself had its successor ready: the VW Golf, which would become even more popular and is still the cornerstone of the VW empire.
In 1997 Volkswagen initiated the nostalgic wave in car industry (cfr. Mini, Fiat 500…) and produced the ‘new beetle’, a modern copy of the Beetle design-wise but technically a Golf underneath. After two generations of this also in Mexico produced car, which never became really popular, the curtain falls.
While in 2003 a ‘Ultima Edicion’ in sand and pale blue color schemes was produced in Pueblo to wave the original Beetle goodbye, the Final Edition of the new beetle will be offered soon in the same two colours, a coupé as well as a convertible, respectively for 23.045 and 27.295 dollars on the US market.
Despite these signs of a definitive end for a world car icon, there are still rumours that an electric Beetle could see the light, but at the moment this is denied by Volkswagen. Woebcken concludes as follows: “VW wants to concentrate on bigger, family-friendly cars and electrically driven vehicles”.