A few weeks ago, the last ever VW Beetle rolled off the production line in Puebla, Mexico, never to be made again, bringing to an end the life of a design icon.
When you see it’s understated, but excellently designed chassis sat on the side of the road, you instantly recognise the icon that is the Beetle.
Without a doubt, the most popular car in the 20th century, and played a huge role in making motor mobility a reality for the everyday man.
There is an unusual paradox within the long history of the Beetle; a car designed for the people, which played a huge role in the massive upturn of the car industry in the post-war years. The car and the design has come to be a symbol of freedom, even championed by Californian hippies painting peace signs on the bonnets of their cute Beetles, smoking their dope.
Before WW2 begun, Germany was undergoing a huge infrastructure overhaul, building the world’s first motorways across the country, and motorways are a fraction pointless if they can’t be used by most of the population.
So a quota was put to the developers to try and tackle. Create a car with enough space for four people, a maximum speed of 100 kilometres per hour, and will cost a maximum of 1,000 reichsmarks.
With the brain power of Ferdinand Porsche and Erwin Komenda, the VW Beetle was born.
The People’s Car.
It wasn’t until after the war that production of the car ramped up, and despite being dubbed “too ugly and noisy” by a commission of leading British motor manufacturers, the public loved it.
It stole the American market from under Ford’s nose, with a brilliant ‘Think Small’ ad campaign run by New York agency Doyle Dane Bernbach. The car quickly became associated with the holy grail of words when it comes to motors; quality, affordability, reliability and design.
The love for the car reached fever pitched when the cute design was championed in Disney’s “Herbie” franchise in 1968, and the transformation from Hitler’s brainchild to a modern design icon was complete.
Over the years Volkswagen have reimagined the car in many different ways, from a soft-top to a sportscar and of course as an interminably fashionable Camper van.
You could argue VW’s later 1998 model of the car, the type that you often see in pink driven by your art teacher, did not have a scrape on the original imagination of the design. Clunky, fairly ugly, and a bit too well…naughties.
By 2003, the original Beetle had stopped production in Mexico, but production of more recent models continued.
Unfortunately, the company have closed the page on this particular book, but certainly not without recognising it’s enormous importance.
it’s impossible to imagine where volkswagen would be without the beetle…from its first import in 1949 to today’s retro-inspired design, it has showcased our company’s ability to fit round pegs into square holes of the automotive industry. while its time has come, the role it has played in the evolution of our brand will be forever cherished.’
Scott Keogh, Volkswagen of America President and CEO.