On July 10, an automotive era finally came to an end, when the last VW Beetle was produced at Volkswagen Group’s Puebla, Mexico factory.
Perhaps oddly, the signage during the factory ceremony showed a timeline from 1997 to 2019 and referred to a lifespan of 21 years but remember, Volkswagen never officially used the Beetle name in Europe for the air-cooled original: it was simply ‘VW 1200’, ‘VW 1300’ or similar.
Setting pedantry aside for a moment though, the original air-cooled Beetle is generally thought to have entered production in 1938 when the occupying British forces restarted production at the Wolfsburg plant, cars then being produced without interruption in Germany until 1978 when European production ceased, whereupon VW’s Mexican outpost was left to produce the car until the final Ultima Edicion arrived in 2003.
Meanwhile, the New Beetle had arrived in 1997 sitting on the Mk4 Golf platform and having started life as a Polo-based motor show teaser called ‘Concept One’. Aimed primarily at the US market, it made sense for production to take place in Mexico, although the car did prove popular in Europe. The New Beetle was itself replaced by the new-new Beetle, officially called simply Beetle, in 2011.
Based this time on the Mk5 Golf platform, the 2011 Beetle was a much better resolved effort than its slightly cheap-and-cheerful predecessor and represented a credible, quality alternative to the likes of BMW’s MINI but with VW rationalising its product lines in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal, it was first for the axe. Although sales in the US had actually increased in its final year, it was still selling in a year what the air-cooled original sold in just a week during its heyday.
Will we see the name return? VW hasn’t ruled it out, but you can bet if it does then there won’t be a diesel engine in sight.