End of an era of a cultural icon which began as a Nazi propaganda tool as the last ever Volkswagen Beetle rolls off the production line

Bye bye, bug - the last VW Beetle. (BusinessLIVE)
  • On Wednesday, the final Beetle rolled off the assembly line in Puebla, Mexico, surrounded by a throng of proud factory workers, and was serenaded by a Mariachi band. 
  • While it is indeed sad, Beetle’s death has, however, been a long time coming.
  • The last Beetle, a Denim Blue coupe, will be put on display at Volkswagen’s museum in Puebla.

After more than seven decades of production spanning three generations, the Volkswagen Beetle is finally done and dusted and would never see the light of the day. 

On Wednesday, the final Beetle rolled off the assembly line in Puebla, Mexico, surrounded by a throng of proud factory workers, and was serenaded by a Mariachi band. The Mexico factory will switch to building a new SUV for the North American market.

“This day for us is a little sad but we are also very proud to have this car here.” Steffen Reiche, President Volkswagen Mexico said.

While it is indeed sad, Beetle’s death has, however, been a long time coming. Volkswagen announced the end of Beetle production in late 2018, launching a special-edition model to commemorate the car’s demise. 

In terms of sales the Beetle also stood no chance of catching up and taking off. The current, third-generation Beetle has never been able to attract the same volume of sales as its predecessors. 

Also known as the Type 1, the original Beetle began as a Nazi propaganda tool before jumping to become a cultural icon. By the time the last one was built in 2003, Volkswagen had sold 21.5 million first-generation Beetles worldwide. 

The second-generation, which was launched as the New Beetle because the original was still being built in Mexico, helped kick off a wave of retro designs. Volkswagen sold 1.2 million of them between 1998 and 2010.

The third-generation Beetle was supposed to pick up where the New Beetle left off, combining classic Beetle styling with modern mechanicals. That prophesy, however, didn’t come to pass despite attempts to broaden its appeal by making the third-generation model less cutesy than its predecessor.

But the third-generation Beetle didn’t have the novel rear-engine, air-cooled design of the original, and hence it never became a fashion icon like the New Beetle.

None the less VW say more than 500,000 have been built since the final iteration of the Beetle launched in 2011 as a 2012 model.

Critiques who have driven all the three generations of Beetle back to back say the third generation was the best car, It just never had the charm of its predecessors.

Like most cultural icons today Technology also had a hand in accelerating Beetle’s demise. The Beetle production process is only 48 percent automated, compared to about 70 percent for other models built in Puebla, according to VW.

Digital Trends while on a tour to the Mexican factory reported seeing workers still hand-aligning sections of the body during assembly, something you won’t see being done with the Golf, Jettas and Tiguans that are also built in Puebla.

The last Beetle, a Denim Blue coupe, will be put on display at Volkswagen’s museum in Puebla.

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