Volkswagen discontinued its most famous car (again), but that doesn’t mean it’s dead

The Volkswagen Beetle may be gone, but it will never be forgotten.


September 5, 2019

Back in July, Volkswagen officially discontinued its iconic Beetle from production, marking the 2nd time in its 74(ish)-year history the beloved vehicle has been pulled from the assembly line.  

But is the 3rd most popular passenger car in history really gone for good? If history tells us anything… no friggin’ way.

The Beetle originated in Nazi Germany back in the ’30s…

But consumers owe the postwar existence of the Volkswagen (people’s car) to the British army, after the military removed a dud explosive (dropped by the US) from one of Germany’s car factories.

Had the bomb exploded, the Beetle may never have existed. But the officer tasked with overseeing the cleanup persuaded the British military to order 20k of the cars. By 1946, the refurbished factory was pumping out 1k a month.

By 1954, Volkswagen had produced over 1m Type 1’s (the OG) and became the top-selling foreign car in the US market. Its bubbly shaped quirk became a symbol of “free love” in the ’60s, and people began referring to it as the Volkswagen “Beetle.”

Yet, by the mid-’70s, the Type 1 saw a decline in sales and experienced its first discontinuation in most markets. But it would only last for a few decades.

The cockroach of the car industry

In 1994, Volkswagen unveiled a “retro”-themed concept car at a North American car show that resembled the original Beetle. And, by 1998, a production version marketed as “The New Beetle” was issued to much fanfare. Over its 21-year resurrection, more than 17m units were produced.

Volkswagen has made 3 versions of the flagship “slug bug,” (selling more than 22.5m in total): the Type 1, the New Beetle, and the A5, which began production in 2011.

Now, it’s gone again as Volkswagen customers shift their wallets toward EVs, SUVs, and crossovers. But, have the people really slugged their last “punch buggy”?

Puh-leaze!

When asked in 2018 whether the Beetle would ever make its way back into production, Volkswagen Group of America President and CEO Hinrich Woebcken said, “There are no immediate plans to replace it. But . . . I would also say, ‘Never say never.’”

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