Volkswagen Says “Auf Wiedersehen” to the Iconic Beetle

VW's sporty Beetle R-Line

By Paul Riegler on 7 March 2018
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Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle, star of stage and screen, will not be replaced when the current version is discontinued.

The original, officially known as the Volkswagen Type 1 and suggested in 1933 by German Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler who, at that year’s Internationalen Automobil-und Motorrad-Ausstellung, asked the industry to come up with an inexpensive, simple people’s car (Volkswagen is German for “people’s car”) for the country’s new Autobahn network.

Designed by Ferdinand Porsche, what became known as the Beetle made its debut in 1938 and was produced until 2003, with the exception of the period of the Second World War.

2013 VW Beetle TDI Convertible

2013 VW Beetle TDI Convertible

The Volkswagen Type 1 became known in Germany as the Käfer and in France as the Coccinelle (lady bug) and was produced in significant numbers only after the end of the Second World War.

Over 21.5 million were built during that timeframe, including 330,251 Cabriolets. This made the Beetle the longest-running and most-manufactured car on a single platform ever produced.

While the Beetle was succeeded in 1974 by the Volkswagen Golf, known as the Rabbit in some markets including the United States, Volkswagen continued to manufacturer the original Beetle for some time given its popularity. In the 1970s, the Beetle captured 5% of the U.S. auto market repeatedly.

In 1997, the Wolfsburg-based automaker launched a second successor, the New Beetle, to carry on the original’s retro design and friendly face.

In 2011, Volkswagen, recognizing that the New Beetle had never achieved the success or cult status of the original, introduced a completely new Beetle, marketed in some countries as the Coccinelle, Maggiolino, and Fusca, for the 2012 model year. Now in its eighth year, the (lower-case) new Beetle featured a lower profile while continuing to maintain the overall shape that recalled the original Volkswagen Type 1, albeit with a more aggressive and modern appearance to further distance it from the New Beetle.

“Two or three generations is enough now… you can’t do it five times and have a new new new Beetle,” said Frank Welsch, head of technical development and Vorstandsmitglied at VW, at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show.

When production of the current Beetle ceases, Volkswagen won’t be without an iconic model, however. The automaker will introduce its classic Microbus as the I.D. Buzz around 2021 as an all-electric vehicle.

Christian Stampfer contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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