Volkswagen Is Discontinuing Production Of The VW Beetle In Favor Of The New Microbus
One of my "fondest" (i.e., least fond) childhood memories is the "Punch Buggy" game. One of my friends (i.e., one of the horrible people I hung out with in my youth) would spot a Volkswagen bug, yell, "Punch buggy, punch first, don't punch back!" and then punch me in the arm. Hard. Children are the worst. Luckily for the next crop of elementary school kids, punch buggies might be harder to spot in the wild, now that Volkswagen's announced they will stop making the VW Beetle and have no plans to create a successor, according to a release from Motor Authority. At least my bicep will be spared.
Indeed, the German automobile manufacturer will cease to produce the iconic VW Beetle at the end of this production cycle, and have no plans to give it a reboot. Though there were rumors that the bug might be reborn as an electric car, R&D boss Frank Welsch announced the VW bug's demise at the recent Geneva auto show, noting that "two or three generations is enough now," and that though the line was "made with history in mind... you can't do it five times and have a new new new Beetle."
Instead, Welsch said, Volkswagen plans to focus on its Microbus, an electric version of the famed VW Bus. "With MEB [the VW Group's electric car platform], you can do a bus and be an authentic vehicle with the original shape, and steering wheel mounted like the original. You can't do that with an engine in the front. The shape you see on the concept is realistic," Welsch said, adding, "People asked when production starts on the car, so we decided to go that way. Better to have that than having five generations of a new Beetle."
According to Car and Driver, the Volkswagen Beetle was initially developed in Germany prior to the start of World War II, though it didn't make its way to the United States until 1950. The bug, which got sleeker and sleeker as the years wore on, was incredibly popular in the 1960s, and even managed to achieve pop culture status thanks to the 1968 Disney film The Love Bug. But though sales surpassed those of the Model T in the early 1970s, by 1976, sales winded down, and by 1979 VWs were no longer being sold.
In 1998, though, the bug got a reboot. The New Beetle, as it was dubbed, was a big hit (and responsible for all the "Punch Buggy" violence). The New Beetle got its own redesign in 2006, and in 2012 Volkswagen released a whole other generation of bugs, this one dubbed simply "Beetle." And in 2016, Volkswagen introduced the "Beetle Dune," a more road-ready version of the several New Beetle iterations.
Indeed, the Beetle's been through a lot over the last 70 years or so, and you can see where Welsch is coming from when he says it's time to give the classic car a break. And as Mashable points out, the Bug is just a little too cutesy for today's driver. Not that I'm much good behind the wheel, or can afford a car, but if I could, I'd probably go for something a little more discreet, like a Subaru or a Honda Civic.
Still, it's always sad to see something that's been around for so long become obsolete. Then again, Volkswagen brought the bug back just a couple decades after putting it to rest in the 1970s, so it's always possible the VW Beetle will make its way back on the market in a generation or two. Hopefully, by then they'll have a hover version.