VOLKSWAGEN has decided to end production of its famous Beetle.
The company’s American unit announced yesterday that it would end global production of the third-generation bulbous bug in July next year after offering two special editions for sale.
The compact Beetle was introduced in Germany in 1938 during the Nazi era and came to the US 11 years later, where it became a symbol of utilitarian transportation.
The famous car sold for about 30 years before US sales stopped in 1979. The last of the original bugs was produced in Puebla, Mexico, in 2003, by which time more than 21m had been produced globally.
Volkswagen revived it in 1998 as a more modern ‘New Beetle’ but it attracted mainly female buyers.
The company revamped it for the 2012 model year in an effort to make it appeal to men, giving it a flatter roof, less bulbous shape, bigger boot and a navigation system.
US sales rose fivefold to nearly 29,000 in the first year but tailed off after that. Last year, VW sold only 8,627, according to Autodata Corp.
In the UK, only 1,598 Beetles were sold from new in 2017 – a tiny fraction of VW’s total sales of 208,462 vehicles here last year.
Volkswagen will make two last versions of the Beetle – the Final Edition SE and Final Edition SEL – but only for the US market.
The special editions, in coupe and convertible body styles, will get unique beige and blue colours in addition to the normal hues. They will also have standard extra chrome, new wheels and three-colour ambient lighting inside.
Volkswagen said it had no immediate plans to revive the Beetle again, but the company wouldn’t rule it out.
‘I would say “never say never,”‘ Hinrich Woebcken, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, said in a statement.
He added: ‘The loss of the Beetle after three generations, over nearly seven decades, will evoke a host of emotions from the Beetle’s many devoted fans.
‘We’re excited to kick off a year of celebrating one of the true icons of the automotive world with a series of events that will culminate in the end of production in Puebla in July 2019.’
Andy Gregory, who is PR manager at Heritage Parts Centre – one of the largest classic VW parts suppliers in the UK, told the Press Association that the new Beetle did well to last as long as it did.
‘I’ve driven a few new Beetles,’ he said. ‘They’re interesting to drive and they’re a little bit quirky – a nod to the original one.’
But he added: ‘It’s run its course and it’s not selling. People are voting with their wallets. It’s a little bit of a shame.
‘There’s such a huge following with the cult classics now anyway and people are doing conversions – making them electric, changing the engine, hot-rodding them, all manner of different stuff.’
However, Gregory didn’t think VW would be able to launch electrified versions of the classic Beetle in the same way Jaguar is doing with the E-Type as the development cost would be too prohibitive.
An electric bus – reminiscent of the old Type 2 – called the I.D. Buzz will replace the Beetle as VW’s retro offering when it launches in 2022 and will come to the UK.
Meanwhile, the T-Roc convertible – due in 2020 – will fill the gap left by the Beetle convertible.
Pictured at top is the 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Dune displayed at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Image: AP Photo/Chris Carlson
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