After seven decades, the longest-running car in automotive history is about to disappear. Volkswagen will end production of its iconic Beetle by the end of the 2019 model-year, the German automaker announced Thursday.
Conceived in Germany during the run-up to World War II, the Beetle became an icon of the American counterculture during the Vietnam War. But it lost momentum following the twin oil shocks of the 1970s and, despite two attempts to rebuild its appeal with complete makeovers, it has been little more than a largely forgotten niche vehicle in recent years.
So, VW has launched what it calls the “Final Edition,” special versions of the Beetle coupe and convertible models that will mark the end of the run sometime next year.
“The loss of the Beetle after three generations … will evoke a host of emotions from the Beetle’s many devoted fans,” said Hinrich J. Woebcken, President and Chief Executive Officer of Volkswagen America.
But while Woebcken said that “there are no immediate plans to replace it,” he added, “I would also say, ‘Never say never.’”
Indeed, Volkswagen announced last year that it will revive another once-legendary model, the Microbus, a hippie-era staple. It will make its return early in the coming decade as the battery-electric ID Buzz. VW plans to introduce dozens of electric vehicles as it shifts away from the diesel engines that created scandal for the brand and cost VW upwards of $30 billion. Some are speculating that the Beetle might also see a rebirth with a battery pack under its hood.
It wouldn’t be the first time the ungainly coupe rose from the dead.
Known as the Bug or, in other parts of the world, the Käfer — German for “beetle” — it was originally intended as part of Adolf Hitler’s plan for a “people’s car,” in German a “Volkswagen.” The Nazis turned to Ferdinand Porsche, the brilliant engineer who later lent his name to the sports car company. The first Beetle was assembled in 1938 but production was disrupted as German manufacturing was shifted to a war footing. And the Beetle might have vanished entirely if it weren’t for a British officer assigned to oversee the restoration of VW’s factory in the heavily bombed town of Wolfsburg after the end of the war. He spotted one of the little coupes under a pile of rubble and decided to start building the car again.