Even a bug’s life is finite. After greater than seven a long time of manufacturing spanning three generations, the Volkswagen Beetle is lastly heading to the massive parking zone within the sky. The ultimate Beetle rolled off the meeting line in Puebla, Mexico, surrounded by a throng of proud manufacturing facility staff, and was serenaded by a Mariachi band. The manufacturing facility will swap to constructing a brand new SUV for the North American market.
Regardless of the passion of the folks that constructed it, and the house owners that drive it, the Beetle’s dying has been a very long time coming. The present, third-generation Beetle has by no means been capable of appeal to the identical quantity of gross sales as its predecessors. Also called the Sort 1, the unique Beetle pivoted from Nazi propaganda device to cultural icon. By the point the final one was in-built 2003, Volkswagen had bought 21.5 million first-generation Beetles worldwide. The second-generation, which was launched because the New Beetle as a result of the unique was nonetheless being in-built Mexico, helped kick off a wave of retro designs. Volkswagen bought 1.2 million of them between 1998 and 2010.
The third-generation Beetle was supposed to select up the place the New Beetle left off, combining traditional Beetle styling with fashionable mechanicals. To broaden its attraction, Volkswagen made the third-generation mannequin much less cutesy than its predecessor. VW additionally launched a #PinkBeetle mannequin, and took it rallycross racing, to boost its profile. However the third-generation Beetle didn’t have the novel rear-engine, air-cooled design of the unique, and it by no means turned a style icon just like the New Beetle. Nonetheless, VW stated greater than 500,000 have been constructed because the last iteration of the Beetle launched in 2011 as a 2012 mannequin. After driving all three generations of Beetle again to again on the grounds of the Puebla manufacturing facility, it was apparent that the third technology was one of the best automotive. It simply by no means had the allure of its predecessors.
Know-how additionally had a hand within the Beetle’s demise. The Beetle manufacturing course of is just 48 p.c automated, in comparison with about 70 p.c for different fashions in-built Puebla, based on VW. On a tour of the manufacturing facility, we positively didn’t see as many robots on the Beetle manufacturing line as we did in different areas. Employees nonetheless hand-align sections of the physique throughout meeting, one thing you gained’t see being accomplished with the Golfs, Jettas, and Tiguans which can be additionally in-built Puebla. That helps maintain assembly-line staff employed, however it gained’t make the accountants joyful.
Volkswagen introduced the tip of Beetle manufacturing in late 2018, launching a special-edition mannequin to commemorate the automotive’s demise. The final Beetle, a Denim Blue coupe, will likely be placed on show at Volkswagen’s museum in Puebla. In a check of on-line gross sales, the final 65 vehicles to be bought to prospects will likely be provided in Mexico by means of Amazon. The final Beetles constructed for the USA — a pair of Kings Purple vehicles with customized dashboards, keys, and quilted seats, will be part of Volkswagen of America’s historic assortment.
Volkswagen has no plans for a direct Beetle alternative. As a substitute, manufacturing capability on the Puebla manufacturing facility will likely be reallocated to a “new compact SUV tailor-made to the North American market, slotting into the lineup under the Tiguan,” a VW press launch stated. Steffen Reiche, CEO of Volkswagen de México, instructed Digital Tendencies that the brand new mannequin will likely be based mostly on an current mannequin bought in different markets, however with completely different styling and a brand new title. An SUV will in all probability do extra for Volkswagen’s backside line than the niche-market Beetle, however it means the automotive panorama is about to change into rather less attention-grabbing.
The Beetle could also be gone, however VW isn’t accomplished with retro designs. In 2022, the German automaker plans to launch a manufacturing model of the I.D. Buzz idea. It’s an all-electric homage to that different iconic Volkswagen — the Microbus. The I.D. Buzz will likely be one in all a variety of recent electrical Volkswagens arriving over the subsequent decade. Perhaps VW will finally discover room in its lineup for an electrical Beetle, too.
Up to date on July 10, 2019: Added pictures and particulars from the Beetle finish of manufacturing ceremony.