Why Did Volkswagen Kill The Beetle?

Why Did Volkswagen Kill The Beetle?


In July of 2019, production on
what is perhaps one of the most iconic and important cars of
all time came to an end. Volkswagen is one of
the world’s largest automakers. It houses brands such as
Audi, Porsche and Bentley. But perhaps its best known
vehicle is this little thing: the Volkswagen Beetle. There are few vehicles in
the history of the world that have been as important
as a Volkswagen Beetle. This car arose from the ashes of
Nazi Germany, became a symbol of the 60s counterculture, and has been
immortalized over and over in film and popular culture. It is perhaps been in production longer
than any other car in history over the entire lifespan of the car. Volkswagen sold over 21.5 million original Beatles. That makes it the most
successful car design ever. Even more than the famed Ford Model
T, which it eclipsed in total sales on February 17, 1970, to more than 22.5 million of all three versions
of the Beatles have been made in terms of popularity. The Beatles nameplate trails only the
Volkswagen Golf and the Toyota Corolla among passenger cars. And now it might be gone forever. To understand the beetle, it helps
to know it’s strange and sometimes disconcerting history. Specifically, the car that became a
hippie icon and Hollywood star actually traces its roots back
to Hitler’s Third Reich. The name Volkswagen in German
means people’s car and the Volkswagen Beetle was originally intended
to be exactly that, a car for the people in the
early days of the automotive industry. Cars were a luxury only
the wealthiest could afford. Of course, this began to change when
makers such as Henry Ford pioneered production methods that made cars
accessible to the every man. At that time, the term Volkswagen was not
yet a brand name, but a term used in automotive circles to describe
a relatively new concept of the people’s car, a vehicle that would
be attainable for the masses. The idea of mass motoring also appealed
to Adolf Hitler, who had risen to power in Germany in 1933 and
was reputed to be quite a car enthusiast. An engineer named Ferdinand Porsche? Yes, that Porsche submitted a proposal
to the new German government to design a small
lightweight people’s car. In 1934, Ferdinand Porsche
was directed to create a people’s car for Germans to travel to New Orleans and also
to be used as military vehicles. Though several other automakers had also
presented designs for a people’s car, Hitler took up Porsches idea
in large part because of Porsche’s reputation in racing. It was this design that would
later become the Volkswagen Beetle. In 1938, the National Socialist
Trade Union called the German Labor Front, started the Volkswagen Work
Company and began building a factory to produce the cars. The group planned to make 150000 people’s
cars within the first year of the factory’s plant, opening in
1939, 300000 in the second year and 450000 in the third. In 1938, Porsche’s car was revealed
and Hitler named it the KdF-Wagon. The letters K,D,F
stood for the German phrase strength through joy. A Nazi era propaganda slogan. As war broke out, the factory intended
to build the cars was retooled for weapons and eventually
military vehicles. All customer orders for the
planned car were cancelled. Even for those who had paid out of
their salaries for them, the use of the factory for weapons ended on
April 11th, 1945, when American forces arrived. The Americans turned over the management of
the region to the British who recognized the utility of the factory
and providing a livelihood for local Germans. They switched the factory over
to make civilian vehicles. There were shortages of raw
materials and other obstacles. But this began the modern era
of the car, officially called the Volkswagen type one and known to
much of the world as the Beatles. The British occupying forces in charge
of the factory made several decisions that were crucial
to Volkswagen’s future. They set up a sales force, a
department for servicing the vehicles and a school for training mechanics. The British even trained mechanics
themselves, using members of the British Army’s own Corps of
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. They also made the choice to
start exporting cars, beginning the transformation of the Volkswagen Beetle and
the company itself into the international icons they are
known to be today. Volkswagen was selling across Europe into
the United States and even in Africa by the 1950s. Volkswagen and its Beetle both became
symbols of what people called Germany’s economic miracle. The name given to the country’s
rapid reconstruction and revival in the years following World War Two. Well, you know, the beetle
had two kind of lives. I mean, its early life in Europe
was during the rebuilding after the war. So a lot of people in
Europe viewed it as cheap, affordable transportation. And it didn’t become a cultural icon
like it is in the U.S. now, in the U.S., when when kids were
buying them in the 60s, it was sort of rebelling against their parents. You had big American
cars were the norm. These were cheap, affordable, exotic,
really, because you’re from Europe. And I think that that’s what helped
establish them as as a big cultural icon. The car also gained a unique reputation
in some of the markets where it was sold, especially in
the United States. It was a car that stood apart. It enjoyed a rare kind of class looseness
in that it was beloved by a wide range of buyers
from all different backgrounds. It appealed to wealthy and
working class buyers alike. It also gained a reputation as one
of the emblems of the 60s counterculture. The small car was cheap to buy and
easy to fix, and along with the VW bus, symbolized the rejection of
the large fuel guzzling American cars of the time. By the 1970s, the Beatles, now
decades old design was losing ground to a new generation of
cars with water cooled engines and front wheel drive, which boasted
more interior space and larger trunks. The car also began to fall behind
competitors in safety and fuel economy. The revaluation of Germany’s currency
also posed competitive problems for Volkswagen, forcing the company to raise
prices in markets such as the United States. Between 1970 and 1976,
Volkswagen of America’s sales dropped from around five hundred
sixty five thousand vehicles to just over 230000, and its market
share was a mere two point three percent. Volkswagen began to broaden its lineup
of vehicles producing the golf, polo and Passat over
the next three decades. The beetle faded into the background
and the company became better known for its successors. In 1998, Volkswagen decided to bring
the Beetle back in a new form as a bubbly front engined car. The new beetle was one of the leaders
of the trend of retro styled cars that followed, which included such
models as the Chrysler P.T. Cruiser and redesigned Ford Thunderbird with
its bright colors and small flower holder on the dashboard. The car attracted a new generation of
customers seeking a unique and fun vehicle. There were some fans of the
old bill who appreciated the cars revival, but others complained that the
new beetle had a cutesy appearance and that its price point was
relatively high compared with its predecessor. So I think there was this great
welling of of of looking back and that sort of died out now that
we’re in the new and the new well into the new millennium. And I think
people are beginning to look forward again. The car was a disappointment to longtime
fans and purists hoping for a return to the original air
cooled rear engine vehicle. Nevertheless, it was something of a hit
with a new generation of drivers. And Volkswagen sold more than one
point two million new beetles globally between 1998 and 2010, while Volkswagen
promoted its new beetle in major markets such as the U.S., the original Beetle was still selling
in other markets around the world, especially in Latin America, for
at least three years. Volkswagen was selling two different versions
of the Beetle to different sets of customers. Production of
the original Beetle continued until 2003 at Volkswagen’s factory
in Puebla, Mexico. A mariachi band followed the final car
as it rolled down the production line. Production of the Beetle at the
Pueblo facility didn’t end with the original VW bug. In fact, it would be home to all
Beetle production for the 1998 and 2011 versions of the car that had been
sold in 91 markets around the world. But sales of the second generation beetle
declined as its novelty wore off and the trend in
retro auto design waned. So in 2011, Volkswagen redesigned
the vehicle again, this time with a more understated aesthetic that bore
more of a resemblance to the original and was more grown
up than its predecessor. It failed to capture the minds of
buyers and never hit the sales numbers of the second generation. Part of the trouble was that Volkswagen
was refining the design of the Beetle at a time when people
were beginning to abandon cars. It held on for a few years,
selling over one hundred seventy five thousand in the U.S. during its run. But then it was gone. On July 10th, 2019, Volkswagen
announced the end of production of the iconic Beetle. The second generation, if you look at
the design of that thing, it actually hews closer to the original
the a little bit flatter. I think it looks really good. I like I’d like what they have
done in making it a more sort of grown up design. But the problem is
that you’re stuck there. You’re stuck with a two door coupe
in a market that has gone SUV crazy. Could the beetle ever
return to the world? Never say never. Said
one Volkswagen executive. But the automaker also said there were
no immediate plans to replace it. Volkswagen has been focused on its
push toward developing family vehicles and electrified cars, but its influence
lives on and other cars the company has made. Perhaps most striking is the planned
revival of the Volkswagen bus. Volkswagen said it plans in 2022 to
begin producing a version of the I.D. Buzz concept bus it
introduced a few years ago. The original bus, which was first produced
in 1950, was built on the original Beatles platform. So even after its death, the Beatles
could continue to leave marks on the automotive world.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

100 Comments

  1. I really don't understand why the world would like a car designed by Hitlers friend. It wouldn't make me sad if Volkswagen would go under

  2. the reason the New Beetle and the recent Beetle flopped is the Golf without a doubt (and it'ssord of squashed in between the Golf and the Passat)

  3. They can revive it in today's market with the similar design and become a new icon in today's market and stay with the rear platform by going electric the perfect answer

  4. Why couldn't they say the beetle Rose our of Germany
    Oooh but had to say Nazi Germany
    As Patton said we fought the wrong people
    Look at Europe , Canada, Australia and America today
    We actually sided with communist
    And they took over

  5. Propaganda slogan? does that mean all advertisements are propaganda? Oh sorry didn't mean to insult your sponsors. Those drug companies sure are touchy.

  6. I was a mechanic at a VW dealership could replace the engine in 38 minutes customer back on the road happy very easy to repair a couple of fuses and the lights were working great on gas never used oil always started every time you turn the key a very well-made car until they started screwing with it and putting a new engine in the front that killed the beatle or Volkswagen if you want to call it that good cars hard to find now after 20 million of them sold very hard to find them now I guess your beer cans

  7. The "New" beetle is just a Golf in disguise. The original Type 1 was copied by Ferdinand Porsche  and was based on a design by Hans Ledwinka who worked for Tatra, a Czech automotive company which is still around. Germany soon overran Czechoslovakia, so they were free to do with what they pleased with Ledwinka's work. After the war Tatra sued Volkswagen over the Beetle and VW settled out of court for a million DM. What killed it ? It's an old, archaic design without a lot of room in it. And it's too difficult to get an air cooled engine to meet modern pollution standards and keep it cheap. That being said, it is a very reliable and fairly economical car to use every day. And you can fix most anything on it yourself.

  8. Bumblebee in the 1980's Transformers cartoon and it's 1986 animated movie he was a yellow Volkswagen Beetle.

    Bumblebee PSA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4A7syAtUl6E

  9. Loved my 68 Beetle, it was not fast but man it was FUN! Drove mine to Yellowstone in 1971 and worked there for a summer. Going up the mountain was definately not going as fast as I wanted, but coming back down was all in neutral and what a ride! Played in Moscow Idaho with the my Bug dragging friends around the sand dunes on big old tractor tires and was even bad ass in the snow! Long as it wasnt too deep🤪
    And could make her chirp burning rubber for 1/4 second. 😁👍🏻❤️👍🏻

  10. Funny how all the Beetle "lovers" on here went out and bought something else instead of keeping their beloved Beetle. I wonder why…..

  11. Beetle was a project mostly stolen by Porsche from the Czech Tatra. VW even paid compensation to the Czechs during communism, so there were no gigantic costs.

  12. What really killed the beetle was the lack of reliability and the fact that the new beetle was the first whose parts couldn't be swapped out from one model to another. We bought one, it lasted us six months before the water pump broke. Four mechanics told us they wouldn't work on new beetles because they were a pain in the ass, and the fifth told us he would charge more for new beetles.

  13. They should have keep the old rear engine/ air cooled basis VW Bug as is and not try to make it into something it isnt. If it ain`t broken dont fix it. I would buy a regular old style bug if they would go back to the original type 1. I`ve had a 1964 & 1974 and also a 1971 Bus.

  14. Agence-France Presse (A.F.P.) photo, driven 1974 Volkswagen Golf 2-Dr. Hatchback Cpe.'s shown at 7:23–7:26 mark at Left part, screen

  15. Had two of them…a ‘67 and a ’74 in high school and college. Fun to drive. Interesting how the British got it restarted after the war, but once the Germans got control of it, it really took off. I feel it will be back one day….probably electric.

  16. I had a 1967 model. It was tan. I could change the entire engine in an afternoon. I drove it without a reverse gear for a year. I just stuck my foot out the door and pushed it back. It got 30 mpg and would run 70 mph. It was an engineering marvel. It would go anywhere a 4WD would go, cross creeks, through sand, and was the king of the snow. I bought it and it was already 15 years old. I gave $850 for mine and drove it 20 years. The most amazing vehicle I have ever had.

  17. Why do Americans call camper vans "buses"? A bus is a vehicle that carries large numbers of people through city streets, It's not a privately owned van shaped vehicle able to carry no more five or six people. That is not a bus!!

  18. Here, in the hills of México City, these old beetle never die. The people loved these "vochitos". Is a wonderful car yet

  19. The original "Volkswagon" or peoples wagon was built around the concept of DIY automotive repair. The Complete Idiots Guide to the volkswagon is an owners bible. I personally,by myself,rebuilt over 2 dozen VW motor/transmission packages from 1960 to 1985 on my garage workbench,with simple hand tools. VW lives by its maintenance program costs.

  20. Ok so what is 7/20/19 or 7/10/19 ???I learned how to drive stick on the bug!!! I ALSO HAD ONE THAT I DROVE AND DROVE AND IT STILL KEPT GOING.I REGRET SELLING IT BUT DEFINITELY GETTING ONE TO RESTORE .ONE OF MANY EXCELLENT CHOICES HITLER MADE.

  21. I'm a Brazillian owner of a 67 VW Beetle (or Fusca here) 1300.
    My First car.
    I'll never sell it, I'll never convert it to electricity. I'll just care of him, I love that car…

  22. We no longer longer use the word: "thee". Unless you mean "you". "Thee world's" is my world, but it contains no Vws. Its not "thee most succesful design" because I don't design cars. Strangely not: "thee Volkswagen Golf and thee Toyota Carolla" but "the Volkswagen Golf etc" "Only the wealthiest" but "thee art a lazy journalist.." I could go on …

  23. I miss my old 1965 beetle. I drove it coast to coast in the U.S. four times in the time I had it. no cruise control, no air conditioning. What fun!

  24. I wish they would have talked about the Volkswagon bus (van) a little more and how they are insanely high priced collectables now days.

  25. Well if that would have kept a back wheel drive with a rear engine they would still be sold with some updates and more power

  26. The new "beetle". Front engine, front-wheel drive, high purchase price, high maintenance costs, and frequent breakdowns. It doesn't deserve the name beetle.

  27. The last real beetle was made in The VW Mexican plant in July 30, 2003 and give to the pope, it is in the Vatican museum of cars. look it up.

  28. As a German, I always thought the Beetle was crap. I drove my my uncles' beetle on back roads when I was 12 years old. It didn't have a fuel gauge a crappy heater, and I remember my uncle putting a radio the size of a small microwave oven on the passenger side. The rear seats were absolutely awful. My grandpa had a Mercedes 190 D which at the time was a real car.

  29. The so-called "new Beetles" aren't proper Beetles at all. Proper Beetles stopped being produced in 2003. A gimmick may catch on for a few years, but was never going to last indefinitely.

  30. The original air cooled Beetle was affordable and easy to repair (until it completely rusted out), but with all of the current environmental and safety regulations, an air cooled car without all kinds of safety devices just can't exist. The "new Beetle" was a totally different car, marketed for nostalgia, front engine, front wheel drive, water cooled, and not affordable and reliable.

  31. Unfortunately the Beetle is being killed off because two few people are buying it. The mistake VW has made is not keeping up with the times. Three door cars are less popular now, so they should of offered a five door variant as well as a hybrid or EV variant plus a range topping sports variant, renewing appeal in the model and keeping it relevant. Another icon, the Mini has been a roaring success because of expanding the brand with different variants. VW should of done more with the Beetle.

  32. The "Beetle" never was, as the name implies, a car. The VW Bug is NOT a car. It is a very interesting mobile platform, but it is not an automobile. It should never be treated as a car. It should never be expected to perform as a car.

  33. It's very strange that this model coming directly from evil Hitler never change it's name despite the terrible history behind it.

  34. New beetle had mechanical problems and also was just worse deal than polo or golf. Its hard to justify such purchase solely on style.

    Tough I love the new design with that huge rear window and front looking a bit like prosche.

  35. Car makers never can just make a great car and keep it up. When they do make a great car, it's like they look for reasons to discontinue it.

  36. I wish they would reproduce the original Beetle, not the modern version. The original Beetle would probably sell millions if they are reproduced today. Heck, even I want one, but sadly all I can do to have the vehicle is to buy a second-hand one or find an abandoned one and restore it

  37. Maybe they should have mentioned the unreliability, engine, electrical, and transmission problems which gave them a bad reputation. Not to mention when they did break down parts at least in the US were expensive. Why would anyone buy this car if they were inevitably going to become an lawn ornament 😂

  38. Man the British are in their own league fully opposite to the modernization and educating style of the French in about everywhere they go e.g West Africa except Ghana and Nigeria

  39. why does no one who talks about beatles ever talk about people punching each other when they saw them? was that only a thing around here?

  40. I still miss my beetles I got rid of my 1968 when I went in the army then got a 1969 gave that away then my last one was the 1974 sold that one my favorite was the 1968 should have kept that one and put in storage

  41. Der neue Beetle war designmäßig eine Katastrophe und nichts gemeinsam mit dem Käfer. Beim Beetle wußte man nie was vorn und hinten ist. BMW hat den Mini und FIAT den Qinque Cento erfolgreich neu erfunden. Der Beetle war immer Lichtjahre von diesem Erfolg der anderen weit entfernt . Ihn einzustellen, eine gute Entscheidung, der Beetle hat keine Seele .

  42. modern one 1998 looks like a crap , the original firs model is beauty. And the newest one is not that ugly but still not good compared to the original

  43. vw screw up, by making the new beetle front engine, fwd.☹
    What would happen, if Porsche decided to make the 911 front engine car?

  44. Old bugs were great because they were cheap and extremely easy to fix. The new beetles were expensive as frack and expensive to fix. I warned my niece before she bought one. Two years in she was trading it for a Nissan Sentra. I wish the VW company would bring back the old bug! I would buy one in a hot second! Needs to be easy to fix and reasonably priced.

  45. C'mon. The new Beetle was a Beetle in name only. It was merely a Golf in a clown suit. It has no relationship with the truly iconic car the company took its name from. Production of THAT car ended in 1978 in Germany and 2003 in Mexico. Of course, it could be argued that modified versions are still being made in Stuttgart. By Porsche.

    The New Beetle is like this video; a fake.

  46. You forgot to mention how much Hitler was an integral part of the design process of the Beetle. And the money paid by the German's for their cars were used for funding Hitler's wars.

  47. Sales died for a number of reasons, but one reason that nobody has noted (at least I don't think & I'm not going to wade thru the 1644 comments), is they just got UGLY . An icon is an icon, and you don't mess with the appearance. The same thing happened to the T-bird…it died because it was flat out UGLY .

  48. volkswagen like many forgot who and what got them where they are at and think they made it out of shear talent and skill. it is what a fool thinks right after its fall.

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