Small car sales have been declining over the past few years — and now Volkswagen has announced that the end is near for one of the most iconic small cars of all: the Beetle. The German company, which is shifting its focus to all-electric cars, has announced that 2019 will be the Beetle’s final model year. While the beloved bug will inevitably return, that won’t be happening until every current VW model is discontinued.
The Beetle dates back to the years after World War I when Germany was rocked by terrible inflation. Ferdinand Porsche — the engineering genius who came up with the world’s first hybrid, the Löhner-Porsche, in 1900 — was asked to design an economical car that was easy to build and repair.
Limited production of the Beetle began in 1938, but production was halted the following year with the outbreak of WWII. After the Nazis’ defeat in 1945, President Truman asked former President Hoover to survey occupied Germany, and he responded that the country’s needs were basic: jobs and food.
British Army engineers had discovered the prototype for a unique automobile amongst the rubble of a factory they were clearing of unexploded bombs, and with help from the Marshall Plan Volkswagen was rebuilt, the British government placing an order for 20,000 cars.
Only 1,785 cars could be completed by the end of the year, but sales took off around the world. Porsche’s grandson, Ferdinand Piech, gave us the New Beetle in 1998, but the Mexican plant in Puebla continued with the Type 1 until 2003, concluding a run of 21,529,464 cars over six decades.
History is repeating itself, in that VW Group is embracing electricity, just as Dr. Porsche did in 1900. This doesn’t mean the Beetle won’t return; it will just take a few years for its lineup to transition into the high-voltage future. The “People’s Car” evokes warm memories from everyone in the motoring world because of the automobile’s practicality and the simplicity of its design.
Volkswagen allowed Dr. Porsche to build his own sports cars in 1948. The success of the Porsche was based upon the proven VW architecture, and it allowed VW Group to expand and acquire its competitors, including Audi, Lamborghini, Seat, Skoda, Bugatti, Scania, Ducati, and Bentley, with factories around the world.
Two final editions of the Beetle will be arriving soon: the Final Edition SE and Final Edition SEL. Both will be offered in Safari Uni, an updated version of Harvest Moon Beige, along with Stonewashed Blue. The latter evokes memories of the 1970 “Jeans Bug.”