Way back in 1999 the International Car of the Century Award honored, as the most influential car of the then-ending 20th Century, something other than Henry Ford’s groundbreaking Model T. The winner was a car from Germany, conceptualized and named by Adolf Hitler, and despite its origins became a favored economy vehicle around the world: Volkswagen. The iconic Model 1, nicknamed “Beetle,” would be reinvented along contemporary lines twice, in 1998 as the “New Beetle” and in 2011 as the Beetle (A5). But all good things come to an end, with Volkswagen in September 2018 announcing the end of Beetle (A5) production this month. That time finally came this week.
Tech Crunch reports that the last unit made of the 2019-introduced Volkswagen Beetle (A5) Final Edition recently rolled out of its production plant near Puebla, Mexico. With that, the German automaker has – perhaps for a time – retired the ubiquitous line of compact cars named after the company itself, all featuring the curved contours that evoked its famous nickname (and appropriate translations in several languages). Said last (A5) Final Edition unit will not be sold but instead be exhibited in Puebla at the Volkswagen Museum there.
The final generation of the Volkswagen line which started in 2011 was something of a course correction for the New Beetle design that came out in the mid-90s. The New Beetle adopted modern vehicle design conventions like the front-engine drive, but sort of went overboard with the retro styling, including a built-in flower vase evoking the Hippies that made use of the original-generation vehicle during the Sixties. The more “aggressive” design of the (A5) made this iteration more successful in approaching the legendary status of the Type 1 that the New Beetle, despite its stronger nostalgia factor, failed to do.
In a public statement regarding the retirement of its eponymous Volkswagen cars, VW president and CEO Scott Keogh noted that the company’s very existence was rooted in the legendary vehicle line, and it was impossible to determine where they would be if the world was not enamored by the Beetle. “From its first import in 1949 to today’s retro-inspired design, it has showcased our company’s ability to fit round pegs into square holes of the automotive industry,” Keogh went on. “While its time has come, the role it has played in the evolution of our brand will be forever cherished.”
Analysts noted that the decision to end the Volkswagen line was in synergy with current vehicle trends, especially how compact vehicles are now being outsold by SUVs and large-interior cars. The Puebla factory that produced the last Beetles (A5) celebrated the conclusion with a small ceremony, after which they would shift to producing VW SUVs.
Image courtesy of Business Insider