Throwback Thursday: Volkswagen Beetle (Part 2) – Beetlemania


Last week, we’ve learnt that despite the original Volkswagen Beetle’s cheerful outlooks, it was spawned during a terrible point in point and did not have the easiest of beginnings. In this second and final installment of the Beetle’s two-part story, we look back on why the Beetle became an endearing automotive icon to the world’s car enthusiasts.

Back in 1955, while the Beetle was a predominant fixture on the roads of Europe, only a small number of them found its way to USA. The American’s love for domestic V8-powered cars, coupled with the Beetle’s image as the “Hilter’s car” did not help with the sales growth of the Beetle. Enter the “Mad Men” of Doyle, Dane, and Bernbach – seeked to boost the Beetle’s profile and credentials.

The creative trio – powered by charisma and copious amounts of cigarettes – came up with a series of revolutionary print adverts. Apparently, black and white prints were already a thing of the past then but it was the write-up that was extraordinary. It was cheeky, unpretentious, and best of all, struck buyers with relevance.Volkswagen launched two campaigns, “Think Small” in 1959 and “Lemon” to the American public. Soon after, DDB crafted a series of witty and charming Beetle adverts that translated to millions of Beetles finding new homes in a country that was possibly still harbouring hatred to all things German.

Over the years, countless improvements were applied to the Bug. While the Beetle’s sillhoutte remained untouched, Volkswagen introduced more powerful engines, fully synchronised transmissions, windscreen wipers, automatic choke, and additional cosmetic enhancements. Later on, additional variants of the Beetle were also introduced.Aside from the famous convertibles, innovative beach boys even turned the Beetle into a Dune Buggy to carry their surfboards to the beaches. In 1971, the Super Beetle was unveiled – the most powerful Beetle ever produced. A year later, Volkswagen celebrated a significant milestone where 15 million Bugs were produced, matching the production numbers of the infamous Ford Model T.

However, in 1974, Volkswagen slipped into decline with the over-reliance of a single model. This led to the production cease of the Beetle in Wolfsburg to make way for a more conventional Golf hatchback. The assembly of the Bug shifted to South America, where production soldiered on till 2003. Seven decades on with over 21 million Beetles produced it’s one of the longest car nameplates to have ever existed.The Beetle did not stop there, as its successor, oddly named the “New Beetle”, arrived in 1997 with the third and current incarnation of the Beetle (the A5) launched in 2011. Sadly, that’s the end of the Beetle as Volkswagen had recently confirmed that there are no plans to develop the A5’s successor.

11 years since the reintroduction of the new Beetle in 1997, followed by a new model in 2011, the Beetle will be replaced by the production model of the Volkswagen ID Buzz Concept, as the retro-styled model in Volkswagen’s line-up.

The Beetle’s successor, another Volkswagen icon, the Microbus.

It seems that Volkswagen has decided to embark on a new journey with its MEB electric car platform, rather than having more “new versions” of the Beetle. A move we’d all applaud seeing as there’s not been an actual new Beetle but at the same time, it’s legitimately saddening to know that the adorable, now defunct Beetle, has no place in today’s society.

Image Credit: Volkswagen


Travis Chang

Travis Chang

While his day job is as exciting as a certain beige saloon, he knows a thing or two about cars and motorsports. The true definition of motoring nirvana according to him is a clear and twisty tarmac surrounded with mesmerizing vistas, followed with a track list of indie tunes on the stereo. Any cars will do fine, not so for big MPVs which he loathes...
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