Bye-Bye, Beetle: VW to squash ‘Love Bug’ production

Wire services
VW will close out the Beetle with two final editions, including a convertible.

Herbie is going on hiatus.

Volkswagen AG is halting Mexico production of its iconic Beetle. Output from the company’s factory in the state of Puebla will end in July 2019.

VW has been pulling the Beetle from select markets as part of a broader effort by the German giant to rein in its bloated product range, which spans more than 300 different vehicles and variants, including heavy trucks, motorbikes and passenger cars. Cutting back on product complexity is one of the key means by which the company is trimming costs and getting leaner in the wake of its diesel emissions scandal.

Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess has been a driving force behind this slimming down since he started leading the main VW car brand in 2015. Demand for the Beetle and other VW hatchbacks like the Golf also has come under pressure as customer appetite has shifted toward sport utility vehicles across the globe. U.S. deliveries slumped to just 15,166 units last year, less than one-seventh the sales of the Jetta sedan.

The automaker said it would end of production of the third-generation Beetle by introducing two final special editions.

The Beetle was developed in Nazi Germany in 1938 and came to the U.S. 11 years later. It sold for about 30 years before production ceased.

The company revived it in 1998 and revamped it for the 2012 model year in an effort to help it attract more male buyers. The car got a flatter roof, less bulbous shape, a bigger trunk and a navigation system.

The Beetle played the starring role of Herbie in the 1968 Disney film, “The Love Bug.” The sentient race car sporting red, white and blue racing stripes from the front to the back bumper headlined several follow-up films and a television series.

VW’s Diess has pondered reviving the Beetle as a fully electric car to tap the model’s cachet in popular culture. The company has touted the upcoming I.D. Neo hatchback to be rolled out in 2020 as the new Beetle for the electric vehicle age.

“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 U.S. sales unit, said in a statement. While there are no immediate plans to replace it, he pointed to the I.D. Buzz – a modern interpretation of the legendary VW Bus – to hint that the Beetle could make a comeback.

“Never say never,” Woebcken said.