For those who like their cars with a little bit (or a good deal!) of nostalgia attached to them, here comes bad news. The Bug will be put out of circulation. Yes, you’ve guessed right—we are talking the iconic Volkswagen Beetle!
The news was unleashed in March during the Geneva Motor Show by Frank Welsch, the head of R&D at VW. Given its iconic status and the immense popularity this bulbous vehicle has enjoyed over the good part of the last century, the news has come off as a shock to many auto lovers.
That said, if we look at the numbers, it is not difficult to see why the company would embark on such a step. In Europe, the sales figure of the new Beetle last year stood at fewer than 24,000. In the U.S., it was fewer than 12,000. Evidently, for all its erstwhile popularity, the bug doesn’t come with much of an appeal to members of the upcoming generations. And if such is the case, we can understand the shutdown from the company’s point of view.
However, one can also hear – in the wake of the news – many Beetle enthusiasts exclaiming…’Once Again.’ And that is true, it’s not the first time that VW has announced (full or partial) shutdown of the model. The most recent was when it discontinued production in 2003 only to come back with a slightly reshaped model (somewhat less rotund this time – presumably to make it more appealing to male consumers) in 2011. Prior to that, in 1997, the company had introduced a redesigned and renamed “New Beetle” to its U.S. market, necessitated for the most part to compensate for the dramatic drop in sales of its other popular models, such as Golf and Jetta, following concerns over quality issues.
We can go back even further in time – in 1979 when the German automaker discontinued the car in the U.S. And yet, production continued in Mexico for sale in Central and South America.
This checkered history would apparently provide grounds for hope for all VW and especially VW Beetle fans. However, before we raise our hopes too high, it must also be mentioned that the situation does look pretty grim this time.
For according to Welsch, one cannot simply go on churning out ‘new’ Beetles for every forthcoming generation and that there has to be an end to that. In his view, the T-Roc Convertibles will eventually replace the Beetle cabrio and cabriolet models by 2020 while the ‘heritage aspect’ will be covered by the I.D. Buzz.
Add to it the plummet in sales and the situation does look a bit lost this time over. However, like all Beetle fans, we too will keep our fingers crossed!
Executive Director, Hillside Imports
Krista Rodriguez is a Portland native working in the automotive industry for the past 18 years. An active member of the community, Krista volunteers within Tigard Tualatin School District and serves as the Treasurer for the Foundation for Tigard Tualatin Schools.