End of an icon: The last Volkswagen Beetle rolls off the production line

Even a bug’s life is finite. After more than seven decades of production spanning three generations, the Volkswagen Beetle is finally heading to the big parking lot in the sky. The final Beetle will roll off the assembly line in Puebla, Mexico, July 10. The factory will switch to building a new SUV for the North American market.

The Beetle’s death has been a long time coming. The current, third-generation Beetle has never been able to attract the same volume of sales as its predecessors. Also known as the Type 1, the original Beetle pivoted from Nazi propaganda tool to cultural icon. By the time the last one was built in 2003, Volkswagen had sold 21.5 million first-generation Beetles worldwide. The second-generation, which was launched as the New Beetle because the original was still being built in Mexico, helped kick off a wave of retro designs. Volkswagen sold 1.2 million of them between 1998 and 2010.

The third-generation Beetle was supposed to pick up where the New Beetle left off, combining classic Beetle styling with modern mechanicals. To broaden its appeal, Volkswagen made the third-generation model less cutesy than its predecessor. VW also launched a #PinkBeetle model, and took it rallycross racing, to raise its profile. But the third-generation Beetle didn’t have the novel rear-engine, air-cooled design of the original, and it never became a fashion icon like the new Beetle. Still, VW said more than 500,000 have been built since the final iteration of the Beetle launched in 2011 as a 2012 model.

Volkswagen announced the end of Beetle production in late 2018, launching a special-edition model to commemorate the end of production. The last Beetle, a Denim Blue coupe, will be put on display at Volkswagen’s museum in Puebla. The last Beetles built for the United States — a pair of Kings Red cars with custom dashboards, keys, and quilted seats, will join Volkswagen of America’s historic collection.

Volkswagen has no plans for a direct Beetle replacement. Instead, production capacity at the Puebla factory will be reallocated to a “new compact SUV tailored to the North American market, slotting into the lineup below the Tiguan,” a VW press release said. An SUV will probably do more for Volkswagen’s bottom line than the niche-market Beetle, but it means the automotive landscape is about to become a little less interesting.

The Beetle may be gone, but VW isn’t done with retro designs. In 2022, the German automaker plans to launch a production version of the I.D. Buzz concept. It’s an all-electric homage to that other iconic Volkswagen — the Microbus. The I.D. Buzz will be one of a range of new electric Volkswagens arriving over the next decade. Maybe VW will eventually find room in its lineup for an electric Beetle, too.

Editors' Recommendations

You may also like...