The Beetle, an avatar of freedom and the ultimate hippie road trip car at its zenith — has been squashed. Volkswagen said in a heartbreaking-to-many announcement that it is ending production of the beloved “Bug” next year.
The German automaker introduced new iterations of the car beginning in 1997 after a nearly two-decade hiatus in the U.S. market. But in an SUV-dominated world, Beetles — first rolled out as the “People’s Car” in Hitler’s Germany — barely puttered along.
The bulbous Bug is exiting the new car market with two models, a snazzy convertible and a coupe, with starting prices of $26,295 and $23,045, respectively.
Volkswagen U.S. CEO Hinrich J. Woebcken left the Beetle’s driver door open just a crack, but enough to give crushed “Beetlemania” fans a measure of hope.
“As we move to being a full-line, family-focused automaker in the U.S. and ramp up our electrification strategy with the MEB platform, there are no immediate plans to replace it,” he said in a statement. “But as we have seen with the I.D. Buzz – which is the modern and practical interpretation of the legendary Bus – I would also say, ‘Never say never.’ ”
Woebcken said the Beetle’s exit after three generations, over nearly seven decades, “will evoke a host of emotions from the Beetle’s many devoted fans.”
A 1967 classic Volkswagen beetle adorned with a peace sign at Driver’s Volks event in Mexico City in 2015. (AP Photo/Sofia Jaramillo)
In its heyday in the ’60s and early ’70s, Beetles were the car to have. And what serious Beetle aficionado from back in the day doesn’t have this memory? The Bug is stuck in the snow, so a few hardy fellows lift it out of the drift. The same fellows weren’t adverse to picking up a Bug and hiding it, either. Yes, that happened — quite a bit, actually. It was all OK and, well, kind of groovy, because tales of searching for hidden Beetles are among those that made its fans’ relationships with their cars one of the quirkiest love affairs in America’s romance with the automobile.
Beetles didn’t offer particularly smooth rides, but neither did many of the cars back then. They were a fixture among broke college students, who scanned the classifieds looking for $100 deals on used Bugs — and there were a lot of them people switched from diminutive, cute little rides to faster cars with V-8 engines and four-barrel carburetors.
Here are five fun facts about the oh-so-fun Volkswagen Beetles:
How many people can you stuff into a Volkswagen? People have been cramming themselves into the tiny cars for decades. When the craze started in the 1960s, there wasn’t much purpose behind it. They stuffed themselves in phone booths, too, because they could. Things are different now. Twenty Asbury University students who piled into an old-style Beetle in 2010 to bring attention to human trafficking got a Guinness World Record, but records like this don’t tend to stand long. The more people that are stuffed into a VW Bug, the more people try to stuff more people in them.
Does it count if some of the people are on the roof. Volkswagen says the most people in a single Volkswagen Beetle is 57, a feat achieved by a group of climbers who used every inch of cabin space then piled them on the roof.
It really doesn’t matter. What to love here is not the number of people who can fit in a Beetle, but the whimsy in people trying.
About the “blumenvasen” — is it really about flower power? Some original Beetles sold in the U.S. came with a porcelain bud vase known as a “blumenvasen” that could be clipped to the dashboard, speaker grille or windshield. Its purpose has been the topic of much debate; many think it was a nod to the popularity of the Beetle in flower power era, but blumenvasens were offered on earlier models, too.
VW incorporated the nostalgic flair in its 1998 redesign, but it it was eliminated in 2011 to make the Beetle more male-friendly.
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