The Beetle, the car that made Volkswagen a household name and carried it through the 20th century, is dead – it is to be killed off after the current generation ends production.
The VW distributor in New Zealand is expected to soon announce when the VW factory in Mexico will stop production of right-hand-drive Beetles for the NZ market.
The car’s demise was confirmed by VW Research and Development boss Frank Welsch at the Geneva motor show.
Welsch said “two or three generations (of the Beetle) is enough”, and added that the car was “made with history in mind, but you can’t do it five times and have a new, new, new Beetle.”
Volkswagen CEO, Dr. Herbert Diess, added that the German carmaker “is evolving into an SUV brand.”
Analysts at Geneva say that for a brand built on being ‘the people’s car,’ going full-on SUV is the only logical way forward – ‘the people’ worldwide are all buying SUVs and crossovers.
But VW won’t let the Beetle go without filling the retro-design gap in its line-up. Welsch said a production version of the battery-electric I.D.Buzz (above), which takes its cues from the Kombi van, would be built on the company’s new MEB platform and take the place of the Beetle as a ‘heritage’ model.
“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,” Welsch said.
“You can’t that with an engine in the front. The shape you see on the (I.D.Buzz) concept is realistic.
“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.
“We had all these Microbus concepts in the past, but they were all front-engined. The physicality of bringing something to life on MQB (current non-electric platforms) does not work.”
VW launched the new Beetle in 1997, with a second generation model following in 2011. The Beetle is sold as a coupe and convertible. Welsch said that the recently confirmed T-Roc convertible (below) would replace the soft-top Beetle as much as the Golf and Eos convertibles.