Bidding adieu to the VW Beetle

Volkswagen announced it was discontinuing the Beetle in favor of the new Microbus.

Image: Unsplash

The news that Volkswagen’s new retro-inspired electric van is going to be hitting the road in 2022 is bittersweet. Though it’s going to be an aesthetically appealing revival of the classic van everybody loves, only more efficient and eco-friendly, it comes at a price. Volkswagen has decided to discontinue production of the beloved Beetle in its place.

The Beetle was launched in Germany in the 1930s, but didn’t make it to the United States until 1950. From 1950 until 1979, the Bug was sold in the U.S., then its production went on hiatus until 1998, when the New Beetle was produced.

When the Beetle first launched in the U.S., it wasn’t a particularly pricey car. According to Car and Driver, the VW importer at the time, Max Hoffman, would usually add a few Beetles on to each order for Porsches and Jaguars to expedite the order, even if he didn’t need them because they were so easy to sell. In 1972, the Beetle broke the Model T’s record of most cars assembled, at 15,007,034.

That easiness didn’t last, though. While the Beetle was hugely popular in the 1960s and 1970s, partially in thanks to Disney’s 1968 movie, The Love Bug and the 1971 series of Super Beetles with larger trunks and more horsepower, the invention of a wider variety of cars significantly lowered the demand for Bugs in the late 1970s. In 1976, Volkswagen ceased U.S. Beetle sedan sales and launched the convertible, which only lasted until 1979.

That is, until the late 1990s. Along with the return of flared jeans and lava lamps, Volkswagen’s New Beetle was welcomed by retro-lovers with open arms in 1998. The rounded vehicle had all kinds of options available, from a rainbow of wild colors to turbo charged engines … as well as a built-in flower vase. It was a cultural hit and the car of every adolescent girl’s dreams.

In 2012, Volkswagen launched another Beetle (and dropped “new” from the name) with less of a bubble shape and a sportier look and in 2016, even created a the Beetle Dune, solely made for off-roading. Maybe in 20 years, we’ll look back at the New Beetle with the fondness of the original, and Volkswagen will launch the Newest Beetle.

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