Volkswagen says goodbye to the Beetle

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Production of Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle will end next year, as the automotive company looks ahead to developing new electric models for the future.

The last Beetles will roll out of production lines in 2019 at the German automotive company’s factory in the state of Puebla, Mexico.

“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,” said Hinrich J. Woebcken, President and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America.

The original Beetle – the first Volkswagen (“people’s car”) – was developed in Germany in the 1930s under the leadership of Ferdinand Porsche and with the support of Adolf Hitler. The car was conceived as an inexpensive, mass-produced vehicle for ordinary Germans. By the outbreak of the Second World War, which ended civilian production of Volkswagen models, only several hundred Beetles had been built.

Mass production of the Beetle began after the end of the war in West Germany during the later 1940s. The first Beetles arrived in the United States in 1949, beginning an American love-affair with the car that reached its peak in the 1960s. The instantly recognisable design appeared in many popular films of the time, making the car into a symbol and icon of the era.

Following a dip in sales during the 1970s and 1980s, the car was modernised and revitalised in the mid-1990s. This “New Beetle” became a hit of the period. However, in recent years, sales have been in decline. Volkswagen sold a total of 11,151 Beetles in the United States through the first eight months of 2018, down 2.2 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Woebcken indicated that, with Volkswagen moving forward towards the production of new electric models, the company had no plans to reintroduce the car. But nor would he rule out the possibility of doing so in the future.

“As we move to being a full-line, family-focused automaker in the U.S. and ramp up our electrification strategy with the MEB platform, there are no immediate plans to replace it,” Woebcken said.

“But as we have seen with the I.D. BUZZ – which is the modern and practical interpretation of the legendary Bus – I would also say, ‘Never say never.’ We’re excited to kick off a year of celebrating one of the true icons of the automotive world, with a series of events that will culminate in the end of production in Puebla in July 2019.”

Two special Beetle models will join the final lineup, the Final Edition SE and Final Edition SEL. Before next July, Volkswagen will have several additional events to mark the heritage and history of its original model.

“The Beetle is more than a car,” Woebcken said. “It’s what made Volkswagen an integral part of American culture.”