Going down in history: End of the road for Volkswagen's iconic Beetle

Volkswagen Beetle
Herbie is going on hiatus. Volkswagen AG is ending worldwide production of its iconic Beetle, the model once so popular in North America that it prompted the German automaker to build its first factory on the continent in the 1960s. The last one will roll off the line from the company’s factory in the state of Puebla, Mexico, in July 2019.

VW had been pulling the Beetle from select markets as part of a broader effort by the German giant to rein in its bloated product range, which spans more than 300 different vehicles and variants, including heavy trucks, motorbikes and passenger cars. 

Cutting back on product complexity is one of the key ways the company is trimming costs and getting leaner in the wake of its diesel emissions scandal.

On Friday, Handelsblatt reported VW also plans to halt production for a week next month of the Golf at its huge factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. 

The model’s woes include more complex emission tests and plans to replace the current version of the hatchback.

Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess has been a driving force behind this slimming down since he started leading the main VW car brand in 2015. Demand for the Beetle and other hatchbacks like the Golf has come under pressure as customer appetite has shifted toward sport utility vehicles.

“The market is moving on,” said John Wolkonowicz, an independent auto analyst and industry historian in Boston. “The people who wanted them, mostly baby boomer women, bought them, enjoyed them and they’re on to something else. Younger people don’t know what the point is.”

Going down in history
  • The original VW Beetle was introduced in Germany in 1938 during the Nazi era and came to the US 11 years later
  • It became a symbol of Germany’s rebirth as a democratic, industrial powerhouse after World War II
  • The car attained further popularity with the 1968 Disney movie The Love Bug
  • Of late, demand for the Beetle and other hatchbacks has come under pressure as customer appetite has shifted toward SUVs


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