Lack of demand means the icon is dead (or will be shortly).
German automotive juggernaut Volkswagen has a lot to thank the Beetle for. While it may have started out life as the ‘Strength Through Joy Car’ in Hitler’s Germany, the Beetle caught on most after the war, and became an automotive symbol of joy and carefree motoring. Early Beetles were renowned for their efficient packaging and economical running costs, but later became an icon of style and classlessness, winning fans around the globe from the average Joe to Oprah Winfrey (who rather famously gave an entire audience of her TV show one each prior to the launch of the current-generation Beetle A5).
After a weird period when it was called the ‘New Beetle’ in the early 00’s (featuring a built-in vase on the dash), the third-generation Beetle that we’re all rather familiar with today returned to the form the original Beetle cut, with its flat roof and pronounced front end, and VW made the most of it by offering the Beetle with a variety of optional accessories that would add even more retro flair to things (the 70s Edition we’ve used here is perhaps the closest to how I’d spec my own Beetle if I could, albeit not a cabrio model).
And while there’s little doubt that we all go ‘ooh’ and feel a little happier whenever we see a Beetle (unless you’re a kid losing at Punch Buggy in the back of the car), it isn’t destined for much longer in the world: It has been confirmed that at the end of this third generation model’s lifecycle, the Beetle will be killed off from the global portfolio.
The confirmation came from Volkswagen’s R&D chief Frank Welsch, who spoke to Autocar at the fringes of the ongoing Geneva motorshow. Welsch said that the present-generation Beetle was built “with history in mind, but you can’t do it five times and have a new new new Beetle.” He makes a point, but it’s saddening nonetheless.
We’d hoped that the Beetle would live on as an electric car perhaps, with Volkswagen having shown before the versatility of its MEB electric car platform. A punchy Bug with acres of cabin space would be a smart return to form for the Beetle, considering that was basically the brief for the thing back in the 1930s. Alas, Volkswagen’s only ‘heritage’ vehicle will come in the form of the I.D. Buzz, a modern take on the iconic Microbus that will come about in 2021 (which is when we reckon the Beetle will be finally squashed).
“With MEB, you can do a Bus and be authentic with the original shape, and steering wheel mounted like the original. You can’t do that with an engine in the front. The shape you see on the concept is realistic. People have asked when production starts on the [I.D. Buzz], and so we decided to go that way. Better to have that than 5-generations of a new Beetle. We had all these Microbus concepts in the past but all were front-engined. The physicality of bringing it on MQB or PQ-something to life does not work.” — Dr. Frank Welsch, Management Boardmember (R&D), Volkswagen AG
Worse still, the Beetle’s been dead in Australia since 2016, culminating in a final batch of ‘Classic’ edition cars that were highly-specified and all-white. So if you reckon that you need a Beetle in your life, because you know it’s such a giggle to have one, now might be the time to do it (and the TradingPost has just the thing).