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Why the Volkswagen Beetle reached the end of the line



Almost everyone has a story about a VW beetle. Now those memories will forever be consigned to history.


COMMENTARY

From Hitler to Herbie, and from hippies to hipsters. Volkswagen beetle Generations transcended.

Almost everyone has a story about a Beetle, a car that made most people smile, and left others bruised during the "Punch Buggy" games if the other person saw one before you.

However, in the end, even the millennials could not keep the Love Bug alive.

The latest Volkswagen Beetle left the production line in Mexico this week, but had been on life support for most of a decade.

Beetle's first generation was in production for a record 65 years, from 1938 to 2003, making it the longest continuous manufacturing model in the automotive world.

With its characteristic "dak-dak" sound, you can often hear a beetle long before you can see it.

The simple design, a steel board that was also part of the body, to save space and reduce material costs, with its air-cooled engine in the back, made it unlike any other car on the road.

In Australia, where tall poppies are reduced, the Bug back to basics became a symbol of fun and freedom. Few cars exuded the congratulations of the Beetle.

By the 1990s, cars had become plastic and soulless, so Volkswagen designed a plan to change that and, presumably, increase their profits.

The modern Beetle, ingeniously based on the basics of a VW Golf hatchback, was launched in 1997 with the advertising slogan "the engine is in the front, but your heart is in the right place".

He even had a plastic vase on the board, a throwback to the porcelain. Blumenvase Option introduced by US dealers from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The flower arrangement was seen as a stroke of genius by intransigent fanatics and a sticky marketing strategy by its detractors.

The modern Beetle never intended to sell in the same numbers as the original, but it was supposed to do better than it did.

Volkswagen sold an average of 330,000 original beetles each year throughout its 65-year history. The modern version was sold at a rate of less than 77,000 a year for 22 years.

The world had changed and there were endless options for buyers of new cars. In contrast, the modern beetle became a cynical marketing exercise.

It was essentially as cheap to make as a Volkswagen Golf (only the shape of the body had changed, the bases were the same) but they were sold at a much higher price.

In Australia, that price amounted to about $ 36,000 when the modern Beetle went on sale in the early 2000s. At that time, a golf hatchback, its twin under the skin, costs from $ 26,000.

Initially, enthusiastic buyers did not care. The modern Love Bug pulled their hearts and opened their wallets.

But fashion would not last. After an initial increase (sales were strongest in Australia in the first two years), the modern Beetle went into free fall when buyers were harassed by the price premium.

The modern Beetle was extinguished from the Australian showrooms in 2016, although in the sales reports of 2017 some appeared, as the distributors struggled to free stocks.

For the fanatics, their disappearance was as painful as that of an insect stirred in a spasm after being sprayed with insecticide.

Volkswagen managed to sell 1.2 million examples of the first version of the modern Beetle in the 14 years from 1997 to 2011, but sales were reduced to less than half the rate (530,000) for the second version of the modern Beetle made in the eight years from 2011 to 2019

Meanwhile, memories of the original Beetle will endure through a healthy collection of pristine examples of classic models in Australia, and a new fan base among Millennials who dream of when life was simple, the direction in cars was heavy and the The brakes were a bit crooked.

A new generation of buyers in their 20s, who had just been born when the original Beetle was declared dead, are now buying cars considered too outrageous for hardcore collectors.

They take their beetles (or other classics) to travel the memory lane on weekends and travel by public transport during the week.

Now that the Beetle is gone forever, it is likely that less than immaculate examples will begin to maintain their value, even if they are at an age when they can not maintain their fluids.

VW beetle by the numbers:

21.5 million: The number of original beetles made from 1938 to 2003.

1.7 million: The number of modern beetles made from 1997 to 2019.

9848: the number of new generation VW beetles sold in Australia between 2000 and 2017.

Mid-1950s: The VW beetles were initially assembled as a kit in Australia.

1959 to 1968: VW beetles were manufactured in Australia, in the Clayton suburb of Melbourne, at a site that would later become a Nissan factory and then a Holden special vehicle assembly facility.

1968 to 1976: The VW beetles were assembled again in kit form in Australia.

$ 1942: The price of a new VW Beetle in Australia in 1960.

$ 36,790: The price of a new VW Beetle in Australia in 2000.

Where from here?

The Beetle may be dead, but Volkswagen is about to revive one of its other classics, the Kombi. Modern versions of the Kombi van and People-Mover will be available in Australian showrooms in two or three years from now.

There is a problem: the hippie-mobile of the future will only be available as an electric vehicle.

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