Carmakers Volkswagen hosted a ceremony in Puebla, Mexico, Wednesday to mark the discontinuation of the famed Beetle or Bug model as the last unit ever rolled off the assembly line to a mariachi band and surrounded by proud factory workers, the company announced.
The move was taken to free up factory space for the production of a new compact SUV intended for the North American market - the Tarek, starting in late 2020, Volkswagen de Mexico CEO Steffen Reiche said.
The Beetle, whose original design can be tracked down to Nazi Germany, has survived with adjustments in looks and luxury for over 80 years. But all glorious eras eventually must give in to change. The current, third-generation Beetle has never been able to attract the same volume of sales as its predecessors. Also known as the Type 1, the original Beetle pivoted from Nazi propaganda tool to cultural icon. By the time the last one was built in 2003, Volkswagen had sold 21.5 million first-generation Beetles worldwide. The second-generation, which was launched as the New Beetle because the original was still being built in Mexico, helped kick off a wave of retro designs. Volkswagen sold 1.2 million of them between 1998 and 2010. The third-generation Beetle was supposed to pick up where the New Beetle left off, combining classic Beetle styling with modern mechanicals.
The Beetle production process is only 48 percent automated, compared to about 70 percent for other models built in Puebla, such as the Golf, the Jetta and the Tiguan.
Volkswagen announced the end of Beetle production in late 2018, launching a special-edition model to commemorate the car’s demise. The last Beetle, a Denim Blue coupe, will be put on display at Volkswagen’s museum in Puebla. In a test of online sales, the last 65 cars to be sold to customers will be offered in Mexico through Amazon. The last Beetles built for the United States — a pair of Kings Red cars with custom dashboards, keys, and quilted seats, will join Volkswagen of America’s historic collection.
Despite the Beetle's end, VW still plans to continue with its retro line, by launching in 2022 an all-electric version of the also iconic Microbus.