I drove my first Volkswagen Beetle back in the 1960’s for a year while in college. I loved its cute design and that it was ‘different’ with great gas mileage. It was totally counter-culture though especially in the US where size and showmanship in style was ‘the thing.’
Then in the 70s, my husband and I purchased an old ‘VW Bug’ which is what it was referred to then – a bright orange one – much to the chagrin of our three teen boys. They learned to drive ‘stick shift’ and though it was a real savings on gas, it definitely was not the ‘macho’ car our boys would rather have been driving around in. But it served its purpose!
The Volkswagen Beetle has its history going back to 1938 when the first Beetle was produced in Germany and it became a symbol of post WW II renaissance and rising mid-class prosperity there.
Whereas in Germany the Beetle was successful for its low price, quality and durability, in the US it became a symbol of the counter-culture revolution in the 1960’s to the ‘bigger is better’. Most of all, the VW Beetle became a landmark design all over the world and an icon as memorable and popular as the Coca-Cola logo.
The original Beetles’ iconic design with rounded ‘everything’ (which made it look like a ‘bug’), was small, cute and with the capacity to seat four to five people and with the air-cooled engine in the back. How many remember college days of ‘how many students can we stuff into a VW bug’?
The first VW Beetles were similar in design to sketches published in 1934 by Hungarian engineer Bela Barenyi, but the final design was more similar to the Tatra T97, made in Czechoslovakia in 1937.
The VW Beetle did not go through the usual yearly change in design like US autos, but in 1998 it came out with a completely new retro version which was built on a Golf platform which resurrected its popularity for its unconventional cute aura under the guidance of then VW CEO Ferdinand Piech,who was the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche’, the original designer of the fist VW Beetle. The next change came in 2012 giving the Beetle a sleeker design.
But now the production of the VW Beetle as we know it will come to a halt this week. The last 5,961Final Edition versions of the Beetle will come rolling off the assembly line and the very last one will be shipped to a museum on July 10, 2019 after ceremonies commemorating its end.
Volkswagen will in the future be concentrating on its battery-driven electric vehicle (EV), compact design ID.3. The company believes that its EV will have an impact on the auto industry just as its original Beetle and the Golf did by bringing EV mobility to the mass global market.