Out of all the iconic cars that have been in the automotive market, the Volkswagen Beetle was one of the most recognized and popular nameplates. And while Volkswagen had great success with its rounded compact coupe for over eight decades, making it a household name and even a beacon of the counter-culture, it’s still rather hard to believe that it all came to an end last year. But why did Volkswagen stop making the Beetle?
The Beetle had an interesting past
The Volkswagen Beetle had somewhat of a controversial beginning, we say that because it was created in 1938 during the Nazi era. Adolf Hitler commissioned Ferdinand Porsche to design a car for the people in order to promote the widespread ownership of cars, just as the Ford Model T did in the U.S. The end product was the rounded and bug-like design that we know today.
However, it started its life being called the KdF-Wagen, which was an acronym for the Nazi organization. The letters, KDF, stood for the German propaganda slogan “Kraft Deuch Freude,” which translated into “strength through joy.” Germany planned to build an astronomical amount of Beetles within the first three years of its debut, but when World War II broke, plans changed and the factory that was supposed to make them was retooled for military weapons. In 1945, when the Americans arrived, they turned it over to the British who then returned the factory to its Beetle-building origins. The car was then renamed the “Type one.”
The Beetle then became widespread
With the British at the helm of the Volkswagen Beetle’s production in the 1950s, they started exporting cars to other countries in Europe, as well as the United States and even Africa. In the 1960s, the Volkswagen Beetle was seen as affordable transportation in Europe, however, in the U.S. it was seen as more of an affordable and exotic choice over the larger American-made cars at the time, which is what made the car more of a cultural icon at the time. But in the 1970s, interest in the Beetle started to decline, as did sales, and the Beetle ended up being phased out in favor of other Volkswagen products at the time.
The second coming of the Beetle
It 1998, Volkswagen came out with the New Beetle, which had a much more bubbly appearance. Despite some pushback from the Beetle faithful, the new Beetle was a hit as Volkswagen sold 1.2 million copies worldwide between 1998 and 2010. During that time, the original Beetle was actually still being sold in various parts of the world, however, production finally ended in 2003 at the Volkswagen plant in Puebla, Mexico.
In 2011, a new generation of the Beetle was produced. The third generation of the Beetle touted a more “masculine” or bolder look, with sharper-edged styling and a more mature overall look. It saw some success as Volkswagen sold over 175,000 units from 2011 to 2019, but the public eventually lost interest in the retro-styled commuter.
Blame it on the SUVs
On July 10, 2019, Volkswagen announced that the Beetle would finally go out of production. In a world where the general public now leaned toward SUVs and other cars with more than two doors, there was simply not as much room in the marketplace, nor as much interest in the “people’s car.” And while the Volkswagen Beetle is gone, it will likely never be forgotten. We can only hope that Volkswagen may one day bring it back, perhaps in a hybrid or electric format.