After more than 20 years of production, the final Volkswagen Beetle has rolled off the assembly line.
And by final Volkswagen Beetle, we mean the third generation of its kind, which began for the 2012 model year. This was after the New Beetle arrived in 1997. Prior to that, a fond farewell was given to the first generation Beetle in 2003. So this is not the first we give the iconic counter-culture Volkswagen Beetle a send-off. It will be the last, however.
Well over 20-million of the original air-cooled Beetle were sold while roughly 1.7-million of the new generation Beetles were delivered. The Beetle itself, as mentioned, was and remains a symbol of going against the grain but mostly, it’s just a really cool car. In Germany, on the other hand, the Volkswagen Beetle suffered the stigma of being the poor-people’s car. There’s no particular relation between these points of view however the Beetle’s relatively cheap price, decent reliability and quirky nature was quickly adopted by the Mexican people in the 50s. This escalated to another level when Volkswagen landed and built a plant in Puebla, Mexico, in the mid-60s.
The Beetle’s roots run deep in Mexico as 4 out 5 Mexicans have a bond to the car. In Canada, although no official numbers exist, 1 out 3 Canadians likely have a Beetle-related story they could share. The sense of family and attachment to Volkswagen is strong in Puebla which explains why the German giant has no intentions to cut any of the workers despite the loss of the Beetle.
Currently, the Puebla plant also assembles the Golf, Jetta and Tiguan. It is to the latter that employees will be shuffled as production of the popular compact SUV is expected to grow. This measure will be partly temporary as the Beetle will officially be replaced by a sub-Tiguan-sized compact SUV internally codenamed Tarek in the course of 2020 for sale in very early 2021.
When I say this is the last Beetle, I should specify that it will be the final petrol- or diesel-powered. VW’s well-known plans for mass-electrification could, at one point in time, see the return of a Beetle, albeit an electric one.
While on the topic of electrification, Volkswagen has hinted that the Chattanooga, TN plant could be building an electric “truck” before too long. Based on the compact Tarok Concept, VW may assemble such a pickup on their MEB platform and produce it for the American and Canadian markets. In doing so, they gain a stranglehold on a booming segment with the first all-electric “affordable” compact pickup.
The, let’s face it, legendary Volkswagen Beetle no longer fit in VW’s plans. Less than 50% of the assembly process was automated, which is in stark contrast with the 70-75% automation for most other vehicles from the brand. As well, despite a mild increase in interest, Beetle sales were never to skyrocket and relatedly, profit margins were decidedly thin. The Tiguan is a far more profitable vehicle, as will any other SUV or pickup for that matter.
Even if we are saying goodbye to the Volkswagen Beetle, it will live on forever in car-lovers’ minds and hearts.
Adios y gracias Beetle. Until next time, perhaps.