Why Did Volkswagen Kill The Beetle?


In July of 2019, production on
what is perhaps one of the most iconic and important cars of
all time came to an end. Volkswagen is one of
the world’s largest automakers. It houses brands such as
Audi, Porsche and Bentley. But perhaps its best known
vehicle is this little thing: the Volkswagen Beetle. There are few vehicles in
the history of the world that have been as important
as a Volkswagen Beetle. This car arose from the ashes of
Nazi Germany, became a symbol of the 60s counterculture, and has been
immortalized over and over in film and popular culture. It is perhaps been in production longer
than any other car in history over the entire lifespan of the car. Volkswagen sold over 21.5 million original Beatles. That makes it the most
successful car design ever. Even more than the famed Ford Model
T, which it eclipsed in total sales on February 17, 1970, to more than 22.5 million of all three versions
of the Beatles have been made in terms of popularity. The Beatles nameplate trails only the
Volkswagen Golf and the Toyota Corolla among passenger cars. And now it might be gone forever. To understand the beetle, it helps
to know it’s strange and sometimes disconcerting history. Specifically, the car that became a
hippie icon and Hollywood star actually traces its roots back
to Hitler’s Third Reich. The name Volkswagen in German
means people’s car and the Volkswagen Beetle was originally intended
to be exactly that, a car for the people in the
early days of the automotive industry. Cars were a luxury only
the wealthiest could afford. Of course, this began to change when
makers such as Henry Ford pioneered production methods that made cars
accessible to the every man. At that time, the term Volkswagen was not
yet a brand name, but a term used in automotive circles to describe
a relatively new concept of the people’s car, a vehicle that would
be attainable for the masses. The idea of mass motoring also appealed
to Adolf Hitler, who had risen to power in Germany in 1933 and
was reputed to be quite a car enthusiast. An engineer named Ferdinand Porsche? Yes, that Porsche submitted a proposal
to the new German government to design a small
lightweight people’s car. In 1934, Ferdinand Porsche
was directed to create a people’s car for Germans to travel to New Orleans and also
to be used as military vehicles. Though several other automakers had also
presented designs for a people’s car, Hitler took up Porsches idea
in large part because of Porsche’s reputation in racing. It was this design that would
later become the Volkswagen Beetle. In 1938, the National Socialist
Trade Union called the German Labor Front, started the Volkswagen Work
Company and began building a factory to produce the cars. The group planned to make 150000 people’s
cars within the first year of the factory’s plant, opening in
1939, 300000 in the second year and 450000 in the third. In 1938, Porsche’s car was revealed
and Hitler named it the KdF-Wagon. The letters K,D,F
stood for the German phrase strength through joy. A Nazi era propaganda slogan. As war broke out, the factory intended
to build the cars was retooled for weapons and eventually
military vehicles. All customer orders for the
planned car were cancelled. Even for those who had paid out of
their salaries for them, the use of the factory for weapons ended on
April 11th, 1945, when American forces arrived. The Americans turned over the management of
the region to the British who recognized the utility of the factory
and providing a livelihood for local Germans. They switched the factory over
to make civilian vehicles. There were shortages of raw
materials and other obstacles. But this began the modern era
of the car, officially called the Volkswagen type one and known to
much of the world as the Beatles. The British occupying forces in charge
of the factory made several decisions that were crucial
to Volkswagen’s future. They set up a sales force, a
department for servicing the vehicles and a school for training mechanics. The British even trained mechanics
themselves, using members of the British Army’s own Corps of
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. They also made the choice to
start exporting cars, beginning the transformation of the Volkswagen Beetle and
the company itself into the international icons they are
known to be today. Volkswagen was selling across Europe into
the United States and even in Africa by the 1950s. Volkswagen and its Beetle both became
symbols of what people called Germany’s economic miracle. The name given to the country’s
rapid reconstruction and revival in the years following World War Two. Well, you know, the beetle
had two kind of lives. I mean, its early life in Europe
was during the rebuilding after the war. So a lot of people in
Europe viewed it as cheap, affordable transportation. And it didn’t become a cultural icon
like it is in the U.S. now, in the U.S., when when kids were
buying them in the 60s, it was sort of rebelling against their parents. You had big American
cars were the norm. These were cheap, affordable, exotic,
really, because you’re from Europe. And I think that that’s what helped
establish them as as a big cultural icon. The car also gained a unique reputation
in some of the markets where it was sold, especially in
the United States. It was a car that stood apart. It enjoyed a rare kind of class looseness
in that it was beloved by a wide range of buyers
from all different backgrounds. It appealed to wealthy and
working class buyers alike. It also gained a reputation as one
of the emblems of the 60s counterculture. The small car was cheap to buy and
easy to fix, and along with the VW bus, symbolized the rejection of
the large fuel guzzling American cars of the time. By the 1970s, the Beatles, now
decades old design was losing ground to a new generation of
cars with water cooled engines and front wheel drive, which boasted
more interior space and larger trunks. The car also began to fall behind
competitors in safety and fuel economy. The revaluation of Germany’s currency
also posed competitive problems for Volkswagen, forcing the company to raise
prices in markets such as the United States. Between 1970 and 1976,
Volkswagen of America’s sales dropped from around five hundred
sixty five thousand vehicles to just over 230000, and its market
share was a mere two point three percent. Volkswagen began to broaden its lineup
of vehicles producing the golf, polo and Passat over
the next three decades. The beetle faded into the background
and the company became better known for its successors. In 1998, Volkswagen decided to bring
the Beetle back in a new form as a bubbly front engined car. The new beetle was one of the leaders
of the trend of retro styled cars that followed, which included such
models as the Chrysler P.T. Cruiser and redesigned Ford Thunderbird with
its bright colors and small flower holder on the dashboard. The car attracted a new generation of
customers seeking a unique and fun vehicle. There were some fans of the
old bill who appreciated the cars revival, but others complained that the
new beetle had a cutesy appearance and that its price point was
relatively high compared with its predecessor. So I think there was this great
welling of of of looking back and that sort of died out now that
we’re in the new and the new well into the new millennium. And I think
people are beginning to look forward again. The car was a disappointment to longtime
fans and purists hoping for a return to the original air
cooled rear engine vehicle. Nevertheless, it was something of a hit
with a new generation of drivers. And Volkswagen sold more than one
point two million new beetles globally between 1998 and 2010, while Volkswagen
promoted its new beetle in major markets such as the U.S., the original Beetle was still selling
in other markets around the world, especially in Latin America, for
at least three years. Volkswagen was selling two different versions
of the Beetle to different sets of customers. Production of
the original Beetle continued until 2003 at Volkswagen’s factory
in Puebla, Mexico. A mariachi band followed the final car
as it rolled down the production line. Production of the Beetle at the
Pueblo facility didn’t end with the original VW bug. In fact, it would be home to all
Beetle production for the 1998 and 2011 versions of the car that had been
sold in 91 markets around the world. But sales of the second generation beetle
declined as its novelty wore off and the trend in
retro auto design waned. So in 2011, Volkswagen redesigned
the vehicle again, this time with a more understated aesthetic that bore
more of a resemblance to the original and was more grown
up than its predecessor. It failed to capture the minds of
buyers and never hit the sales numbers of the second generation. Part of the trouble was that Volkswagen
was refining the design of the Beetle at a time when people
were beginning to abandon cars. It held on for a few years,
selling over one hundred seventy five thousand in the U.S. during its run. But then it was gone. On July 10th, 2019, Volkswagen
announced the end of production of the iconic Beetle. The second generation, if you look at
the design of that thing, it actually hews closer to the original
the a little bit flatter. I think it looks really good. I like I’d like what they have
done in making it a more sort of grown up design. But the problem is
that you’re stuck there. You’re stuck with a two door coupe
in a market that has gone SUV crazy. Could the beetle ever
return to the world? Never say never. Said
one Volkswagen executive. But the automaker also said there were
no immediate plans to replace it. Volkswagen has been focused on its
push toward developing family vehicles and electrified cars, but its influence
lives on and other cars the company has made. Perhaps most striking is the planned
revival of the Volkswagen bus. Volkswagen said it plans in 2022 to
begin producing a version of the I.D. Buzz concept bus it
introduced a few years ago. The original bus, which was first produced
in 1950, was built on the original Beatles platform. So even after its death, the Beatles
could continue to leave marks on the automotive world.




Comments
  1. THE BEETLE meant to be For the Masses, Cheap and Affordable, cheaper than other cars. But the latest models costed as much as cars twice bigger..And for the money you could buy much better and bigger car. Volkswagen should build a Basic car without any Bells and Whistles, just the engine and staring wheel , and price low.

  2. So you are telling me they can't reboot it in like 10 years? It really is just a brand now. The real Beetle died in 2003

  3. I don't consider the front-engined "New Beetle" to be a real VW Beetle. It is based on the VW Golf platform, with a roughly Beetle-shaped body, meant to appeal to nostalgic baby-boomers. It failed because there is no real "fun" in driving it; it was much larger and heavier than the original. More refined? Certainly. But a New Beetle could cost $25,000 with options, where my brand-new 1972 cost $2,500, and the only options were a clock and a radio. Now my old Beetle would sell at auction (if I still owned it) for over $50,000, and that New Beetle languishes on used car lots.

  4. Vw has killed my favorite car, they let me down, I must move on, I don't have to much intrest in vw anyomore, time to move to mini cooper

  5. VW is one of most successful foreign company in China,people in China love VW,VW has bunch of popular vehicles in China,except Phaethon,any else vehicles are well selling in China

  6. The type 1 is simpler to operate and maintain as my family had a 65 model until now. Modern beetle is complex and as Scott Kilmer said it's an endless money pits.

  7. New beetle has so many small issues despite it was a lot of fun to drive. It is just too costly to maintain a small / non-high end car like that

  8. The real beetle died in 2003 in Mexico not that pretend one that came after. Also the second generation Volkswagen van ended production in Brazil in 2013

  9. Actually turning over the factory, as described, is incorrect. British wanted War Reparations payments. The factory was put back in production so Germany could pay Britain. OOPS, that backfired. Volkswagen is the 2nd largest car company on earth behind, you would never believe, Renault.

  10. Hey Lefties and Democrats, So without that fascist Hitler and that evil colonising British government you would not have your Beetle. Ha Ha Ha so funny!

  11. I bought a brand new 1971 Beetle for $1,865 equipped with an AM radio. In today's money that same bug would cost $13,055 with an AM radio. I wonder how many original Beetles would sell at that price? Sounds like a lot since wages have not kept pace with inflation.

  12. VW is planning on licensing out its ID platform to other carmakers. That ID Buggy was a demonstration of how flexible the ID platform is. So an ID Beetle will likely be made, although it may not come from VW.

  13. Hitler was a socialist, and in 2019, Democratic Presidential candidates are openly embracing socialism. History really does repeat itself.

  14. People are not abandoning cars! Cars are getting less reliable and more expensive to buy as well as more expensive to maintain! If people abandoning cars it is not because people don’t want cars it’s because cars are getting worse.

  15. They could have continued to produce it if they choose to sell to developing countries like china & india…..opportunity lost

  16. The Beetle was an example of how far behind VW cars have become in the modern world. In it's earlier build it was illegal to sell in most countries of the world. The later version was simply a Golf with a new coat.
    Like the Fiat 500 it bore no relation to the original.

  17. The beetle died in 1968 when they went to those crappy sheet metal bumpers, pollution control that did not make it run very well and vinyl seats that would shrink and crack in the sun. Every change made until the end of production in 1979 (in Germany, anyway) made it cheaper and cheaper to compete with Datsun and Toyota. the later bugs were crap compared to them and they could not compete on price. A Datsun 510 from that era is a poor man's BMW 2002 and I'd sure rather have a 510 than a 1978 beetle.

  18. That so-called expert @ 5:25 etc. is an idiot. Young people didn't buy the VW because of rebellion, their parents bought it because it was a great commuting car and it lasted forever.

  19. KDF was NOT a propaganda slogan, it was program for workers in the reich. It included things like company sports teams, state funded cruise vacations, workplace improvement laws and the like.

  20. The beetle should have been the Corolla of Volkswagen … Even tho they had the Jetta for that … Some of these car companies are so lost today

  21. It’s kinda ironic, nazis was some of the deadliest people’s on earth, but they made one of the most peaceful car in the world,

  22. Front engine ruined the Beattie . Plus the VW has been on a decline the past few years Anyways so they’re cutting pennies where they can. Only German brand I wouldn’t buy a new car from.

  23. I think VW should bring back the Beetle but make it and Electric version.
    I would get one.
    EV West in California converts the old Beetles into custom electric cars.

  24. The second and third iteration of the beetle were high end luxury vehicles compared to the original. The reason the original sold so well was because it was drastically cheaper than the competition. If we did not have the current financial protections that support lenders who loan money money for vehicles to people who probably can't pay it off, we would have significantly cheaper vehicles that would become the next generations cult classics.

  25. There are over 5 versions of the Beetle. Not just 3. The old original model had version 1, 2 and 3. The new had version 1 (+ facelift) and 2. Pluss cab versions etc

  26. Terrible story. The 1st buyers were dupped into buying there card through stamps etc. They were never get the car. Their money was transferred to armourments

  27. I now got the VW Tiguan 4 motion and running strong for the last 7 years, and hopping to take it with me to Switzerland!

  28. I had a red 1974 Super Beetle, my neighborhood flooded in hurricane Katrina. In 2015 I bought a brand new red 2016 Beetle. I 💖 my bug, haven't one day regretted buying it.

  29. EV West makes kits for the classic beetles now. You can do the conversion yourself, or have an EV shop do it. Not exactly cheap but it's like buying a really cheap newer car like a yaris. The beetle sells for 2k on craigslist and the kits go for about 8k.

  30. The beetle is supost to be a yes peoples car. A car with desent price. And it will be sad that vw stoping building it . sorry to mention vw are stupid to stop production that wonderfull car !! They could do i nice 4 door beetle as dodge did with the charger!!!! Also golf is a terrible design . the beeetle is a classic a wonderfull little car bether than a ridiculus golf that dont have no class

  31. People fell in love with the original Beetle and Bus because they were simple, cheap, reliable, and easy to fix if they did break down. That's what made them so attractive. We came to love the shape because it was an awesome, practical, affordable little car.
    The "new Beetle" had none of the qualities that made us love the original. You can't drop everything that made the original popular and hope a generally similar shape will carry the new Beetle.
    When the new one is front wheel drive, every bit as complex as anything on the road and they aren't particularly affordable, then the body shape becomes a liability.
    For the new Beetle it's like VW said, "lets ditch everything people loved about the original and lets keep the impractical body shape".

  32. The Bug Ain't Dead It's Going Electric, I Hope That They Go Retro On The New Design, Maybe A Special Edition Herbie Throwback Model. And Maybe Even Remake Herbie The Love Bug Movie With A New And Improved Electrified Herbie.
    It Would Be Great Advertising Campaign And I Love Those Movies.

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