End of the road for Beetle; Volkswagen to halt production next year

Volkswagen said on Thursday it end worldwide production of its iconic Beetle compact car in 2019, as the company prepares for a mass-market electric cars.

The original VW Beetle, developed in the 1930s, was identified with Adolf Hitler and then associated with Germany’s rebirth as a democratic, industrial powerhouse after World War Two.

“The loss of the Beetle after three generations, over nearly seven decades, will evoke a host of emotions from the Beetle’s many devoted fans,” Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen’s US sales unit, said in a statement.

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While there are no immediate plans to replace the car with a next-generation version, he pointed to the I.D. Buzz — a modern interpretation of the legendary VW Bus — to hint that the Beetle could one day make a comeback.

“Never say never,” Woebcken said.

In the 1960s, the Beetle was a small-is-beautiful icon of the postwar baby boom generation. Volkswagen discontinued sales in 1979, but continued production for Mexico and Latin America.

In the mid-1990s, at a time when Volkswagen was struggling to rekindle sales in the United States, then-Chief Executive Ferdinand Piech pushed to revive and modernize the distinctive Beetle design pioneered by his grandfather, Ferdinand Porsche.

The result was a crescent-shaped car called the “New Beetle,” launched in 1998, which offered playful touches such as a built-in flower vase.

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The New Beetle took off initially with sales of more than 80,000 in the United States in 1999, but recently the car’s sales have suffered. Overall, VW has sold about 500,000 Beetles globally since 1998, the company said.

U.S. consumers looking for a small Volkswagen vehicle overwhelmingly prefer the Jetta sedan, or a Tiguan compact sport utility vehicle, Reuters reported.

The German automaker’s has been under scrutiny from a scandal caused by its admitted cheating on diesel emissions tests. Now, Volkswagen is gearing up to launch a wave of electric vehicles to appeal to a new generation of environmentally conscious consumers – children and grandchildren of the 1960s Beetle enthusiasts.

The company said two special Beetle models will join the final lineup – Final Edition SE and Final Edition SEL – in the United States and would offer driver-assistance technology.

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