September 17, 2018
It had all of the appeal of a 1998 Furby toy, but a much longer lifespan. Volkswagen’s Beetle is ending an 80-year global run as one of the most visually engaging and best-selling vehicles of all time.
Produced as Volkswagen AG’s first-ever model in 1938 in Wolfsburg, Germany, the Beetle endured because it was a well-built, affordable compact car that—with its unique shape and youthful spirit—sparked the imagination of buyers worldwide. Since then, 22.7 million Beetles have hit the road—and like their insect “cousins,” have flourished in nearly every ecosystem worldwide.
For many Americans, the Beetle was the ultimate “hippie car” of the Baby Boomer generation—paving the way for an influx of economical foreign models in the 1970s and 1980s.
According to a September 13 report by The Wall Street Journal, VW’s decision marks the second time the car will disappear from American showrooms. Production of the original Beetle ended in 1979, but a more-modern version of the car that was larger and had more creature comforts debuted in 1997. The newer model has been produced in Puebla, Mexico, since 1999.
U.S. sales of the Beetle stopped in 1979 and resumed with the “New Beetle” in 1998. The revamped Beetle, which featured a quirky dashboard flower vase and front-mounted engine, was replaced by a more muscular-looking version in 2011. But neither redesign caught on like the original among its Baby Boomer fans or younger generations of car buyers.
Even though the United States is the vehicle’s biggest market today, VW sold only 15,000 Beetles nationwide last year, the business news outlet said. That is less than 5% of the 339,700 cars the company sold in the States. in 2017.
Company officials said the move comes as VW focuses on other models and its electric-car lineup, but left the door open for a return of its best-known nameplate. “There are no immediate plans to replace it,” Hinrich J. Woebcken, the head of VW’s American operations, told the Journal.
.The German automaker said it would stop building the compact next year at a factory in Mexico, the last plant in the world to make the car.
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