Bye, bye, Beetle

By CARSIFU | 10 July 2019

PETALING JAYA: The last Beetle will roll off the VW assembly line in Puebla, Mexico, today.

The car, a Denim Blue coupe, will then be displayed at the company's museum nearby.

Volkswagen in Malaysia, meanwhile, will be holding a gathering of Beetle fans on July 13 to mark the retirement of the iconic model.

It has been a remarkable run for a quirky car that began life some 80 years ago as a people's car in Germany during the dark years of Adolf Hitler's reign.

Sales only took off after World War II, with the 1 millionth Beetle produced in Wolfsburg by 1955. The biggest foreign market for the Beetle was the United States, where sales topped 563,522 units in 1968, which was 40% of production.

US sales ceased in 1979 but the Beetle continued production in its original form for Mexico and Latin America. In 1998, the Beetle was modernised, morphing into a crescent-shaped car called the “New Beetle”.

The last Beetle to leave VW's Mexican plant.
The last Beetle to leave VW's Mexican plant.

The current Beetle, available as a coupe or convertible, is now in its third generation. At just under 4.28 metres, it is considerably longer than its predecessor and has added almost 9cm to its width as well. That makes for more space in the interior and the luggage compartment. And the new model has a few retro reminders of the classic Beetle as well, particularly in the interior: the glove compartment, hand straps and trim recall the original.

The front-wheel drive Beetle offers brisk performance from a 174-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine linked to a six-speed automatic.

The Final Edition, offering driver-assistance technology, will be revealed at the Nov 23-Dec 2 Los Angeles Auto Show, will soften the blow somewhat.

To date, Volkswagen has sold more than 1.7 million of the third-generation Beetle. The cult car, sadly, didn't stand a chance to changing consumer taste as they move on to SUVs.

The end of the Beetle comes following the Dieselgate scandal Volkswagen was caught up in. The car maker is trying to put that damaging past behind as it prepares to roll out a wave of electric vehicles to appeal to a new generation of buyers.

The Mexican plant will rejig the Beetle line to make a new crossover that is smaller than the Tiguan. The new compact crossover goes by the internal codename Tarek, a model said to be a beefed-up version of the Tharu, a VW model sold in China. The actual name of the model will be changed closer to production in late 2020.