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Volkswagen to End Production of the Iconic Beetle Next Year

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【Summary】Volkswagen announced on Thursday that it will stop producing one of the the world’s most recognizable cars—the Beetle. The iconic car is associated with the Volkswagen brand and a enduring symbol of 1960’s counterculture. VW said it would end production of the rounded compact car in 2019.

Eric Walz    Sep 14, 2018 5:09 PM PT
Volkswagen to End Production of the Iconic Beetle Next Year
author: Eric Walz   

Volkswagen announced on Thursday that it will stop producing one of the the world's most recognizable cars—the Beetle. The iconic car is associated with the Volkswagen brand and a enduring symbol of 1960's counterculture. VW said it would end production of the rounded compact car in 2019.

The original VW Beetle, or 'bug', traces its roots all the way back to the 1930's in Germany. Throughout its production run, the car transformed from a symbol of Germany's rebirth as a democratic, industrial powerhouse, to a freewheeling symbol of 1960s counterculture in the U.S. Volkswagen discontinued U.S. sales of the Beetle in 1979, although production continued in Mexico for other markets.

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A 1979 VW Beetle Cabriolet

By the mid 1990's, Volkswagen was experiencing sluggish sales and was looking to recapture its place in the American car market as a practical, reliable German brand. VW's Chief Executive Ferdinand Piech made a bold decision to reinvent the Beetle, with a modernized version that retained the classic body style of the original.

The result was called the "New Beetle," when it launched in 1998. VW appeared to look to Apple for inspiration for the new Beetle, as the computer company was just bouncing back with its colorful line of iMac computers. VW offered the new Beetle, in bold colors such as bright blue, green and yellow, while adding unique touches such as a built-in flower vase—reminiscent of the "flower power" movement of the 1960's— the Beetle's heyday.

The New Beetle was a hit during its early years, with sales of more than 83,000 in the United States in 1999. VW even offered a turbo Beetle, powered by a 1.8 liter turbocharged engine. However, sales fell subsequent years. By 2011, VW sold just 6,468 Beetles. In would remain a niche model in subsequent years.

So far this year, VW sold 11,151 Beetles in the U.S. VW said its consumers looking for a small Volkswagen vehicle overwhelmingly prefer the Jetta sedan, or a Tiguan compact sport utility vehicle. The Jetta, Tiguan and Beetle are built for North America and other markets at a factory in Mexico.

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The 1998 "New Beetle"

The end of the Beetle comes as Volkswagen is reinventing itself. The company is looking to launch a full lineup of new electric models and distance itself from the fallout of the ‘dieselgate' scandal of 2015 where the automaker admitted to tampering with software to falsify emission tests on thousands of its diesel models.

Now, Volkswagen is gearing up to launch a wave of electric vehicles to appeal to a new generation of environmentally conscious buyers, which include the children and grandchildren of 1960s era Beetle owners.

In a statement announcing the end of the Beetle, Hinrich Woebcken, head of Volkswagen of America, said that as the company ramps up its electrification strategy, there is no plans to replace the Beetle with another offering. However, his statement did not rule that out someday, so perhaps we will see an electric Beetle in the future.

As with the Beetle, VW is resurrecting another classic model—the microbus. VW is working on a concept vehicle called the I.D. Buzz, a prototype for a modern reincarnation of the microbus van/camper. The vehicle is scheduled for a 2022 launch. The original Volkswagen microbus went out of production in 2013 due to safety concerns. The automaker has said it intends to put a vehicle similar to the I.D. Buzz into production as a fully-electric vehicle.

Car collectors or die-hard fans of the Beetle can buy special edition versions of the final Beetle. The company said two special edition Beetle models will join the 2019 lineup, the Final Edition SE and Final Edition SEL will be offered in the United States. The two models will be the first Beetles to offer advanced driver-assistance technology.

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