Today is the end of the road for an iconic rounded car. From playing “punch buggy” on family vacations to viewing old Herbie the Love Bug movies, people love Volkswagen Beetles. Now VW is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model at its plant in Puebla, Mexico.
Over its 81-year history, the vehicle has become part of American—and global—pop culture. The Beetle, aka “Bug,” began as a Nazi project for a cheap, simple, practical “people’s car” (the translation of the German Volkswagen). Later, it became a symbol of Germany's postwar economic recovery and rising middle-class success. Soon the Bug was a global symbol, sold and recognized all over the world. Still today, the car’s landmark design is as recognizable as the curvy Coca-Cola bottle.
The first two-door, rear-engine VW Beetles became available in the 1930s. But due to World War II, few non-military Beetles rolled off the assembly line until the end of the 1940s. These Bugs multiplied quickly: By 1955, there were one million Beetles roaming the Earth.
Production at the Beetle’s birthplace of Wolfsburg, Germany, ended in 1978. Newer front-drive models like the VW Golf took over. But the Beetle wasn't dead yet. Production went on in Mexico from 1967 until 2003—longer than the car had been made in Germany.
The New Beetle—a completely new retro version built on a modified Golf platform—resurrected some of the old Beetle's cute, unconventional aura in 1998. In 2012, the Beetle's design was made a bit sleeker. Today, the last of 5,961 Final Edition versions heads to a museum after ceremonies mark the end of production.
What memories do you have of the VW Beetle?
(VW beetles on assembly lines at the Volkwagen auto works plant, in Wolfsburg, West Germany in 1954. AP Photo/Albert Riethausen, File)