ALL NEWS

From Nazis to hippies: End of the road for Volkswagen Beetle

Jul 10, 2019, 6:06 AM

beetle...

FILE - In this April 21, 2017, file photo Volkswagen Beetles are displayed during the annual gathering of the "Beetle club" in Yakum, central Israel. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

(AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model this week at its plant in Puebla, Mexico. It’s the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938.

It has been: a part of Germany’s darkest hours as a never-realized Nazi prestige project. A symbol of Germany’s postwar economic renaissance and rising middle-class prosperity. An example of globalization, sold and recognized all over the world. An emblem of the 1960s counterculture in the United States. Above all, the car remains a landmark in design, as recognizable as the Coca-Cola bottle.

The car’s original design — a rounded silhouette with seating for four or five, nearly vertical windshield and the air-cooled engine in the rear — can be traced back to Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche, who was hired to fulfill Adolf Hitler’s project for a “people’s car” that would spread auto ownership the way the Ford Model T had in the U.S.

Aspects of the car bore similarities to the Tatra T97, made in Czechoslovakia in 1937, and to sketches by Hungarian engineer Bela Barenyi published in 1934. Mass production of what was called the KdF-Wagen, based on the acronym of the Nazi labor organization under whose auspices it was to be sold, was canceled due to World War II. Instead, the massive new plant in what was then countryside east of Hanover turned out military vehicles, using forced laborers from all over Europe under miserable conditions.

Re-launched as a civilian carmaker under supervision of the British occupation authorities, the Volkswagen factory was transferred in 1949 to the Germany government and the state of Lower Saxony, which still owns part of the company. By 1955, the millionth Beetle — officially called the Type 1 — had rolled off the assembly line in what was now the town of Wolfsburg.

The United States became Volkswagen’s most important foreign market, peaking at 563,522 cars in 1968, or 40% of production. Unconventional, sometimes humorous advertising from agency Doyle Dane Bernbach urged car buyers to “Think small.”

“Unlike in West Germany, where its low price, quality and durability stood for a new postwar normality, in the United States the Beetle’s characteristics lent it a profoundly unconventional air in a car culture dominated by size and showmanship,” wrote Bernhard Rieger in his 2013 history, “The People’s Car.”

Production at Wolfsburg ended in 1978 as newer front-drive models like the 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. Nicknamed the “vochito,” the car made itself at home as a rugged, Mexican-made “carro del pueblo.”

The New Beetle — a completely retro version build on a modified Golf platform — resurrected some of the old Beetle’s cute, unconventional aura in 1998 under CEO Ferdinand Piech, Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson. In 2012, the Beetle’s design was made a bit sleeker.

The end of the Beetle comes at a turning point for Volkswagen as it rebounds from a scandal over cars rigged to cheat on diesel emissions tests. The company is gearing up for mass production of the battery-driven compact ID.3, a car that the company predicts will have an impact like that of the Beetle and the Golf by bringing electric mobility to a mass market.

The last of 5,961 Final Edition versions of the Beetle is headed for a museum after ceremonies in Puebla on July 10 to mark the end of production.

___

AP photo blog about the last Volkswagen Beetle: https://bit.ly/32bXuMx

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

Salt Lake City Police Department is looking into the death of two people who were killed in a workp...

Mark Jackson

Two men dead in Salt Lake workplace shooting

One man was found inside the building, another outside. Police don’t believe there’s an imminent threat.

1 hour ago

(Canva)...

Michelle Lee

The hidden dangers of too much sugar

Let’s Get Moving Host Maria Shilaos spoke with Health Educator Troy Duell to learn about the hidden dangers of sugar.

12 hours ago

...

Alex Cabrero

South Jordan residents react to thousands of tumbleweeds in front of their homes

As heavy winds blew through a Daybreak neighborhood in South Jordan, avoiding tumbleweeds kind of became a sport.

22 hours ago

Salt Lake City International Airport is also being impacted by the winterstorm moving through Utah....

Mark Jones

Delays, cancelations reported at Salt Lake City International Airport

As of 7:40 p.m. on Saturday, airport officials said 146 flights had been delayed, which is 39% of the departing flights.

22 hours ago

Crews working on a power pole that was damaged when heavy winds blew through the area near Shivwits...

Derrick Jones

Power restored to thousands, work continues, after winter slams Utah

Rocky Mountain Power attributed the outages to power lines downed or damaged by the wind and snow.

1 day ago

Dusk on the last day of the 2024 legislative session at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Frida...

Bridger Beal-Cvetko

The Utah 2024 Legislative Session is over. Here’s what lawmakers did

Utah lawmakers made the most out of the 2024 general legislative session, passing 591 bills, surpassing last year's previous high of 575.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

From Nazis to hippies: End of the road for Volkswagen Beetle