It’s the end of an era. The other week, we took a moment from our busy day repairing cars at our auto garage in Cincinnati and took some time to honor the VW bug. The last Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the assembly line in Mexico in July. And while our mechanics may still repair Volkswagen Bugs, it’s a little sad to know they aren’t being made anymore.
“It’s impossible to imagine where Volkswagen would be without the Beetle,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. “While its time has come, the role it has played in the evolution of our brand will be forever cherished.”
Once marketed as “It’s ugly, but it gets you there,” the VW bug morphed into a symbol of what cool was. You could buy one in 1969 for just under $1,800.
A New Look to Say Goodbye to the Past
It was the VW’s image that helped distance Volkswagen from its historical connection with the horrors of Nazi Germany. As NPR explains:
“Volkswagen was founded as a project of Adolf Hitler, and its earliest cars were used for both civilian and military purposes. Volkswagen was relaunched by British authorities after World War II, and its car was rebranded as the Beetle to distance it from its Nazi heritage.
“It worked. A couple decades later, the car was the anthropomorphized star of a run of movies starting with The Love Bug and on to Herbie Fully Loaded.”
We were excited to see Volkswagen relaunch the Beetle in 1998 — that meant we could keep repairing VW Bugs that weren’t necessarily antique vehicle restores.
Sales Surge on Remake
The newly revamped Beetle helped spur VW sales in the late ‘90s. As Volkswagen recalled in a history recap commemorating the VW Bug:
“The New Beetle helps Volkswagen boost sales by some 55% in 1998. In 1999, the Group scores its best result in the US in almost 25 years with over 380,000 units sold. By the time of the model change in 2010/2011, over half of the 1.2 million units produced are sold in the United States. The “Bug” is what the New Beetle is lovingly called here. Celebrities such as TV host and car fanatic Jay Leno are enthusiastic about the car, while German entertainer Thomas Gottschalk tools around his Malibu neighborhood in his.”
And the company tried to continue that success, but ultimately sales dipped. VW explains:
“But cult is not necessarily synonymous with sales. Roughly 600,000 units of the Beetle have been sold since 2011. Sales have tapered off in recent years as drivers’ tastes are changing. SUVs are the latest trend, with numerous models from Volkswagen brands also playing a leading role. The Beetle has not been able to attain the global success of the new ‘Volkswagen,’ the Golf.”
VW Beetles are still classics — and we’ll keep repairing them anytime you bring them into our shop for brake jobs, radiator flushes, or regularly scheduled performance maintenance. But we might start to get a little teary eyed — nothing can really replace the iconic Bug!